Saturday, March 13, 2021

Happy Birthday! - MR SMARTSHINING KING "SHINE"

Our quarter horse Shine just turned 5 years old yesterday and we had a chance to look back on how his training has improved over the years we have had him. 

We bought him from AA Quarter Horses back on October 1st 2016 when he was just over 6 months old. I remember the day we were headed to pick him up, we ended up having to reschedule because we lost a tire on the horse trailer. I remember stopping on the side of the freeway and helping Dad change to the spare tire. We were so glad we didn't have a small horse in the trailer. Not only would he have been young, but it was also over 100 degrees that day. Whew!

Yeah...I wasn't smiling when we found the fender 1/8 mile back on the freeway.
 
We didn't want to wait to get the fender fixed, so we scheduled with a horse transporter to help us go pick up the baby horse. We headed out in my Saturn station wagon and got a ways up the freeway when my car started dropping in acceleration. It had done it before, so I pulled over carefully and went back to readjust the gas cap. My car seemed to be doing fine after that, but Mom and I waited for Dad to join us before we continued on to Riverside. 
 
That day we met Ryan (horse transporter) and then went into the backyard of the breeders' place to see Shine. We found him in the round pen. This was fun because I got to work with him a bit and get him into his halter. I remember leading him out of the round pen and heading toward the trailer. This would be his first time in the trailer alone. 

Eduardo & Claudia (horse breeders), Shine, Shari

I led Shine pretty much right into the trailer and tied him up. I had bought one of the stretchy lead ropes, but had Ryan (transporter) bring me the regular one he had with him. Shine was pretty calm the whole way back to Escondido. Ryan let me get him out of the trailer and we snapped a quick picture before we walked Shine to his new home.

Ryan, Shine, Shari

Over the years of training I have learned how to be flexible while still being consistent with my training.


Shine helped me look at training differently and made me realize how much an equine could be a friend as well. Dad was out there a lot, taking pictures and we have gotten quite a few neat ones through the years. 

I almost match Shine when I wear my yellow shirt and he learned quickly what "Selfie" means.

There have definitely been some trials throughout training with him, but I learned a lot from previous horses I had taken lessons on and trained, that I felt like each trial just made me that much better of a trainer going forward. 




To date, Shine has learned to give consistently to pressure, to stand while been brushed and tacked, allow kids and adults to ride him, doesn't mind walking with me to pick up some plastic bags, likes the large American Flag, and stands at attention while I play my trumpet from his back. I look forward to many more years of fun and learning.


 Happy Birthday, Buddy!


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Update on Training

The weekends are awesome! We don't have as much time limit and we can work each horse for as long as they each need. Some times that is for an hour of long riding where you can work on more difficult things, or it might be a good 30 minutes of training on the basics. It's a good training session if the human and the horse are calmer at the end of the session than they were at the beginning. 

Shine: We love having weekend time to ride together. I tacked Shine up in his stall and walked him out to the field to mount. He stood calmly while I mounted. I rode him at the walk around the field, picturing myself riding in the arena that we hope to work on this Spring/Summer. The field is still uneven, but he doesn't seem to mind. We then trotted, I have been working on keeping my balance centered and ready in case he stumbled. The bird were calling the trees, but he stayed focused on me. We even did some cantering. While cantering, I'm working on him staying on the path I tell him to. He has a tendency to canter on the diagonal rather than keeping his hind end in the right alignment with his head, neck, and front feet. He only does it on the same side, so I think he's trying to get to the other end of the field because he stayed lined up when I direct him over there...We also worked some in the barnyard. Since it has sand, the footing stays more even and is easier to ride in all the time. It helps to work on things with Shine in different places on the property. He learns he can be calm anywhere. I like the barnyard because it's fenced and we can work on hard stops and turns. He finally understands the rollback and has done it perfect several times in a row...I also had time to work with him walking past the house, like he does when we go get the mail out front. He was having a tendency to not want to walk back toward the ranch area when we were on the way back, so I walked a short distance and turned around then walked a short distance back and turned around. I want to work on that a few more times before we just walk straight out to get the mail...Shine is also over his "fear" of plastic bags. There were a few of them blowing across the yard, so later in the day, I put on his halter and we went to grab them from the field. He followed along right beside me and even stood still while we worked a plastic bag through the fence that had become caught on the opposite side.

Soot: He has been mostly calm during the weeknight training sessions, but over the weekend we were able to get him moving. Once he was moving he didn't want to stop. Heehee! We didn't do any pulling yet this weekend, but we did get the saddle on him again. The stirrups are more English style and come off quite easily when he's cantering with no person on his back. They flew off a few times. We got him cantering which he probably finds easier when he can really see where he's going. We still don't have arena or area lights to use during the dark evenings. He wanted to keep stopping when we started off in the round pen, but we kept him going and then he didn't want to stop. We worked on having him continue to change directions and stay out away from us, so he could really pick up the canter. We worked him until he wanted to stop, then we kept him going for a few extra minutes. When we were cooling him off, I mounted up and rode in the saddle at the walk while we lunged. That saddle is different than the other saddles we use, so it will help the more comfortable I am riding in it. I think we'll do that during his cool down for the next few times we use it. At first I was pulling on his mane to keep balanced, it felt like I was moving all over. Soon though, I realized I wasn't pulling anymore. It takes some getting used to because his stride is so much longer than Shine's. He was much better when walking him back to his stall at the end.

Serita: She still comes to greet me when I enter her stall. Getting her halter on is easy. She actually puts her nose into it sometimes. I am still working her on the basics having her step forward when I tap her hip and doing that multiple times in a row. The key there is to keep tapping until she actually steps forward then stop tapping immediately. Sometimes I tap for a long time before she moves forward and other times she steps forward right away. When cleaning up her stall the other day she came forward and reach out like she was trying to get me to leave. I decided that to break this habit, before it even got started, I would tie her up while I clean. She stands calmly the whole time and will let me walk right up to her afterwards or even let her loose from outside the stall. After she tried to pull away from me when I walked her outside her pen, I haven't taken her out again. I have instead practiced leading her around her pen, stopping and moving, then stopping again to get her to behave correctly in the controlled environment before taking her out again. I am setting her up to succeed and answer correctly every time. She continues to improve with holding her feet up while I clean them and will stand still most of the time even when I just put the lead rope up over her back. She has a tender stomach and twitches a lot when I brush her under there. I am working on having her stand still by brushing her softly and then stopping before she moves away. Her tendency to move is slowly improving for sure.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Who Inspires You?

I have been asked this question by a few people, so here is what I have said. I like the natural horsemanship training that goes with what the horse already does naturally. This can range from those people who teach the horse to rear on command to those who want the horse to pivot on their barrels quickly. I have done a lot of research on trainers and my favorite few to date are John Lyons and Jonathan Fields. 

I had somehow gotten on John Lyons mailing list and started by receiving a book called Communicating with Cues Part I. I read the first few pages and was hooked, I mailed my check immediately. What followed was more books to complete the series and I loved and continue to love them all. The Perfect Horse series is on my bookshelf and I reference it regularly both for inspiration and for affirmation that I am training the right way. I also got the opportunity to meet John Lyons in person at the Equine Affaire (now called Horse Expo) in Pomona, CA several years ago and he is the same godly man and trainer as I expected from his books.

While at the expo I also met other trainers, including Jonathan Fields who showed a lot of liberty work. After getting home I looked him up as well and watched several free videos online of his training. I joined his viewer video list and continue to get "31 videos in 13 months" Inspired by Horses training series.

Both trainers are about lasting results with lots of repetition rather than fast results. They have helped SS Ranch 77 by continuing to inspire us with how we live and work with our horses.

Do you have a favorite trainer?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Difficult Training Sessions

Even though we wish all sessions with our equines were positive from beginning to end, that isn't reality. I try to keep in mind what John Lyons stated in one or more of his books, "leave the training session with your horse being calmer than when you started." At some times this is much more difficult to do than other times. Here are a few things I've learned over the years: 

Weather can play a factor in training sessions. Whether it is sunny and warm, or cloudy and windy, you can work with your horse and have them be calmer at the end than when you first entered their stall. Remember also that you should only ride (or work your horse) where you can, not where you can't. Though it would be fun to just get on and ride anywhere, you want to keep you and your horse safe. Once when I was riding Seyvilla the weather had been sunny and warm, but it quickly got cloudy and windy. We were out in the field and it wasn't going to be simple to just ride home, the wind was really whipping around us. I had a few options, I could 1)keep riding and hope it cleared up, 2)I could turn around and ride home, or 3)I could dismount and turn back toward home. All options could work well, so in situations like this you need to look at the situation completely to decide what to do. Here are some questions to ask yourself: 1)If I turn around now, can do I something on the way back or when I get back, to have the horse be more calm before I put him/her away? 2)Am I riding with a less experienced rider that might get hurt? It might depend on which horse they are riding and how they are reacting to the situation.

Training updates per horse and some reality sessions:

Shine: Though Shine is pretty great in all situations, he does have some times when he has been too excited at the time of his training sessions that I can't do what I had been planning to do with him. He is turning 5 years old next month, so he's pretty strong on most of the basic training things...giving to pressure, bending, keeping his head down, riding over uneven ground, cantering fast while still listening to the rider, picking up his feet, standing while brushed, etc. However, on some windy days I have noticed him pacing in his stall and at times even nipping at me which isn't normal for him. The pacing started when we realized our neighbor had just bought a goat. Shine wasn't afraid of the goat, but he wasn't used to it either. It took him a few days before he was back to his calm self. I used those days to work more on the basic training steps, to do more groundwork and get him listening to me while still working on a few new things. He was easily distracted by the goat in the next yard, so working on a lot of new training items wasn't super effective. Since I have now been training him for 4 1/2 years I can pretty much tell when it's a "back to basics" day, or a day that I can do a lot of new things. One of the new things he enjoys is helping me check the mail, though even now that he does it great in good weather, there are still days I decide not to do it because of where his head space is.


Soot: We are still not doing long sessions with us on his back as he is still growing a lot! We plan to do more consistent riding when he turns 4 years old in April. As I have mentioned before, riding a draft horse is better to do once the horse is 4 years old. Since he is much taller than us now, we must be careful to work with him to make sure he doesn't push into our space. With our other horses, we can see over their backs, but with Soot we can't, so if something scares him on the side we can't see, we can't be ready to react. This being said, we have noticed that while working Soot in the round pen, he has stopped and raised his head high to look at something far away that we can't even see. That isn't an issue ...unless it is. Do we want him to do this while we're riding or when he's pulling a wagon or sleigh? Not really. We want him focused on what we want him focused on. We are continuing to work with him on this, so he keeps his focus on us. He still loves pulling and even on days that he's excited, he seems to calm down when he sees the tire and knows he's going to be asked to pull. Back to the motto that draft horses love a job to do. Maybe we can use him to help us pull the track area or part of the field in the spring when we work on grading for our riding arena.


Serita: She just turned 1 year old this month, but we need to be careful where we work her because all the surroundings are still so new. She is comfortable in her stall and since it's 24'x24' we can work her in there for now. Recently we were leading her to the round pen and she got excited. She pulled the lead rope hard and was able to get away from us but was quickly caught. This reminded us that we need to continue to work with her on leading so she knows when we're leading she needs to follow our lead and not push ahead. This could have ended more negatively if she had gotten caught up in a fence or twisted her ankle. Thankfully she did not hurt herself or us. Working her in her stall gives us time to work with her on giving to pressure, bending, yielding to the lead rope, and listening to us, then we can work more on leading when we walk outside the stall. She continues to improve, but we can't rush the process or someone (human or equine) might get hurt.



Monday, February 15, 2021

Snowy Training

The training sessions have to be different when you ride in weather. You don't want the horse to twist an ankle or fall down. Each horse will react differently to different weather, so you have to be ready to customize the training to suit each one. Here is what we have noticed about each of our equines now that we have several inches of snow on the ground and more coming this week:

Soot: He is standing calmly in his stall and let's the snow fall down on him. He loves it! He also loves to eat a snowball out of our hand, which is fun. We weren't sure what he would do with the snow on the ground, but when we walked him to the round pen, he didn't mind walking through the snow. He put his head down and wanted to eat it and then when we asked him to trot, he picked that up no problem. He even does some cantering. Soot is part Gypsy Vanner, so he already picks up his knees when he walks or trots. He loves it! 

Shine: He has been in training with us for almost 4 1/2 years now. He is pretty trusting as long as I am involved when he is learning something new. The same is true with the learning and accepting the new ground content, including snow. I have found Shine, more often than not, is standing out from under his cover, letting the snow fall down on his head. He's a goof for sure! When I walked him out of his stall he walked tentative to begin with, but didn't seem to mind the different ground. He loves trotting next to me and stays right with me like we have worked in the round pen. Yesterday, I also rode him in the field here. The snow came up to almost his knees. Again, he didn't seem to mind and we walked and trotted all over the field. It was super fun! He also loves to eat the snowball out of my hand. I think he enjoys trying to eat it and not knock it off my gloved hand.

Serita: Since she is so young, the training is especially different for her since she is still learning so many new things. She is pretty comfortable in her stall even with the snow coming down, but when we take her out she gets excited easily. We are working her more in her stall during this snowy season because we know she will feel safe and she listens better since she knows her stall is a safe place. She, like the boys, stands out from under her cover in the snow, and is warm and toasty so we knows she's not getting too cold. We look forward to the coming drier seasons when we can get her out and around the property more to get used to all the new sights and sounds around our property.




Sunday, February 7, 2021

Setting a Time Limit

With horse training, you might find that either the horse or rider/trainer runs out of energy before the workout is completed, so how do you know when to stop?

We have 3 horses right now and each of them are at a different point in their training, so we have to answer this question different for each horse. Let me start, however, by saying that when training horses you don't have to use the whole time each day. Work with them for however long it's fun and don't let yourself get too tired, especially if you have multiple horses you want to have energy to work with.

Shine: Since he is almost 5 years old, we definitely have a longer time limit with him. He has a longer attention span and we can get to more advanced skills. Even with the more advanced horse though, you don't have to only have long training sessions. We have decided to touch each horse every day. With Shine, even 5 minutes can turn into time to work on 1 or 2 key points in his training. During the week, we usually have about 15-20 minutes each day that I can devote to his training/riding. With that time we can use it all for brushing (asking him to stand tied during that time), or work on bareback riding, asking him to move away from pressure, give at the pole, etc. 

Soot: He is almost 4 years old, and since he's mostly draft we will be getting on him more consistently in April when he turns 4 years old. With him the above applies. Even with just a few minutes we can get him to yield to pressure, pick up his hooves, stand to be brushed, etc. He is our biggest equine standing at over 17 hands, so we need to continue to work on him not pushing into the human's place, and standing calmly to be haltered, etc. He has to hold his head lower to have us halter him than the other horses. When we do have time, like during the weekend, we hook him up to the tire and have him tow that around. He loves it and we think he wishes we had time to do it every day. 

Serita: Since she's still less than a year old (her birthday is 2/13/20), we need to be careful to keep her training sessions short. She has the shortest attention span of the 3 horses and we want to make it fun for her so she continues to learn and always has a positive outlook on us coming to get her. Sheena is still doing most of the training at this point. When the horse is very young, it's best to keep the training to 1 person so the horse has very consistent training. Even with two people who think they are training the same, it might be a minute difference that the horse will notice. At least that is what we have noticed with our training. We train mostly the same, but have found some differences that might confuse the horse when they are young. Starting next week, we'll start working with her on accepting more weight on her back, in preparations to having a western saddle. This worked for us when we started Shine. Adding small amounts of weight, like the English saddle pad then the Western saddle pad, you increase the weight gradually so you don't ever have a big blow out. This is safer for the trainer and less stressful on the horse, making each training session, even new things are introduced, fun for everyone involved.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Getting Out in the Mud

As the weather stays cold here in Idaho, we are looking for ways to keep the horses warm, but it is important to observe first. You might be surprised how little needs to be done to help the horses in the winter weather.

We live by the motto that it might be nice to upgrade something, but is it really necessary? It's the same with the training aspect of keeping horses. Each horse takes the cold weather differently, but that just keeps things interesting. Here is what we have found from watching our horses' behaviors and working to better each of them from where they are:

Soot: Our resident draft x (cross) is now about 17 hands and continuing to grow. His coat is coming in long and he loves to stand out in the rain, snow, and wind. Even though he's big, he can canter around in his 20'x20' stall and loves it! When we get him out, we have found that in this weather, we are working with him being better at giving to pressure on the lead rope. He leads wonderfully, but sometimes gets a bit ahead of us (his stride is longer than ours for sure!). We are working with him staying beside us rather than pulling ahead. For exercise, we brought him into the barnyard and kept him on the lead, working to having him yield to the halter/lead to keep his head toward the center. He is listening and even crosses over in the back, which shows he is trusting us. We would love to get a chance to have him pull the tire again.

Shine: Our almost 5 year old quarter horse is continuing to learn more as well. He has recently been my transportation out to the front of the house to pick up the mail from the mailbox out by the street. He is still getting used to the gravel on the driveway and it is a reminder to me to check his hooves each time I am done out there so I can get any gravel that has stuck to his hooves. Since he is still barefoot (all our horses are) it is especially important to check the sole of the hooves to make sure they are walking on clean hooves so they don't get bruised. I have yet to bring out the American flag again since our move, but hope to get a chance soon to use that as well. Shine also loves to canter in the field area beyond the horse stalls. We have plans to upgrade that area to have a wagon trail and a smoother place to ride, but Shine doesn't seem to mind cantering over the uneven ground, especially when it's moist and gives under his weight. 

Serita: This girl is now almost 1 year old and learning a lot! We would love for her to give to the pressure on the halter quicker, but that will come with time. She still picks her hooves up easily to have them checked for stones and stands for a long time to be brushed. Our recent accomplishments include, walking her around the field area where she mostly stays beside us, moving away from us when we ask while cleaning up her stall, and moving forward to get some of her pent-up energy out when we do freedom lunging in the round pen. She loves to kick up her heels!

 In the mud it has been better to work the horses more in the barnyard that has nice sandy footing. We do work them in the round pens too, but mostly from the ground.