Monday, April 29, 2013

Building a Bridge to No Where

Bridging the communication gap
"Like a Bridge over troubled waters..."

I could go on like this for days...But truthfully I just wanted to tell you about the training bridge we built.  As you can see we used old lumber laying around the yard, so we killed 2 birds with one stone. Cleaned up some of the yard and made a new training tool. There are 3 4x4's underneath, which just happened to be treated with truck bed lining (I dunno why). Then the planks are made mostly out of old water bed sides, and then some left over wood from the barn finished it up. It is heavy as all hell, but sturdy.

I had planned on doing it myself but the minute I mentioned it to TC, he took over the project.  Somehow or another while I was watching him I managed to mess up the back of my knee. Every time I took a step it felt like something was pulling too tight.  Hurt like hell for about an hour. Who knew that supervising could be so dangerous!

Before I/he started this project I went to the clubs tack swap meet.  I didn't buy anything, there just wasn't anything I needed.  I did spend some time talking with RC about Trax's tongue and the show. What I found out is that if I want to enter I have to use some sort of shanked bit.  My Mylar does count as one so that is what we will have to use.  We talked about the classes I want to enter, and she agreed with my choices, plus told me to throw in the western pleasure class. She says, "you won't win it, but it will be good training before you get to the classes where you really want to compete."  The only thing that concerns me about that is how he will react to the on, then off, then on again aspect of it.  But there is only one way to find out I guess.

Then she said to enter the adult and the open trail class. She says again, use your first one to get him used to the course and then in the second one you go in and beat the pants off of everyone!   Then she also told me that if I want to get a real good idea of what to expect (as I have never even seen a live horse show before) to go to the AQHA show the second week of May.  I think that is great idea.  I told her I was still undecided on the halter class. She said do it, It is a flat fee for club members to enter as many classes as we want, and he is nice looking horse. Just wash him up, and take him in.

As we were talking, another girl I met at the clinic I went to last year (she has a cool horse named Czar who jumps) joined in and was telling us a hilarious story about her and her former boss. Then I needed to get going so I said, "Well I'd better run, I've got to go and build a bridge today." The other gal comes back with, "Oh, so you can get over it?"  (badumpbom)   I laughed all the way to the parking lot!

So we got the bridge built, I threw it and some more poles in the back of my truck and went out and set up the rest of my course.  Then I came back and got the horse and trailer.  By time I got him trailered the wind started picking up. By time I got to the arena, it was blowing. Grrrr! But I rode anyway.

Now, there is something I wanted to elaborate on yesterday but boys were harassing me, so I didn't get too.  The reason that just letting Trax run and run was the wrong thing to do is because he is like a long distance marathon runner. If you run you know what I mean, if you don't I will explain it to you. Runners reach a point where they get "in the zone". (hence the term "runners high")  They are able to tune everything else out and just focus inward on their breathing, their heartbeat, and their feet moving. Nothing else exists.   I could actually feel it yesterday when Trax went into his zone, and at that point I knew he had forgotten I was even there. It is like the faster he goes the more he relaxes.  If I had let him, he would have stayed there for hours.  He loves it there in the zone, it is his happy place. So although I think that letting him do that can be a good thing at times, it is not the right way to warm him up. Actually what I think is that maybe it is the right way to warm him up, the day before.  (*disclaimer- I personally have never experienced a runners high, I avoid running at all costs.  But my ex was a runner so that is how I know about it)

I am going to test my theory next week.  I will take him one day and just let him run to his hearts content and not make him do anything else. Then the next day we will go back and train.  The reason I think that this might be good for him was because of how he good he was on Sunday.

We started our usual ground work, only this time I really focused on our downward transitions.  I was very clear in my verbal cues of "easy" and then would give just a slight tug on the lead line.  I was very clear in my upward cues as well. A smooch means step it up, and we played with slow trots, faster trots, slow canters and faster lopes.  We did this a lot in both directions and I could see the wheels turning in his head as he was figuring it out.  I'm here to tell ya, the boy is smart, and he wants to get it right.

Then I stepped up on him and we went right into the exact same thing. I wanted to do it while it was still fresh in his mind, so he could make the connection. It felt like he did too. We spent a good hour just on transitions and reiterating what the cues mean.  Yes his downward transitions still need some work, but they were so much better than the day before. I kind of feel like because he had the day before to move as fast as he wanted, this time he wasn't near as interested in doing so. He was perfectly happy to listen to me, and attempt to understand my cues.  It could just be that since we started out with "you will pay attention to me", it stayed that way, but he really did seem more ok with being tuned into me. I guess more will be revealed in that respect.  I spent most of my time practicing riding one handed, which is easy at everything except for the fast lope.  I actually have to hook my thumb in my belt loop to keep my arm from flying all over the place.  I experimented with his extended trot, and have decided that posting doesn't work for me, I can sit his extended trot pretty easily as long as I move my hips from side to side a little.  Its funny because as I am riding I can hear Marks voice telling me to stop leaning into my circles, or to get my leg off of him because he is leaning on me.

One of the things I worked on was when I say "easy" to get him to slow down, of course I also drop my seat, but he still requires a little bit of help from the rein, so in order to keep from just pulling straight back, which just throws his head straight up in the air, I worked on just using my fingers of the one hand to bump bump bump from one side to the other. This gets him to drop his head (a little) and tells him with as little contact as possible that I'm asking for a little less speed. It seemed to work pretty well. My arm stays in place, but my hand pivots just a little and my fingers do the work.  I would like him to respond a little quicker than what he is, but it is better than before and so I am happy with the progress we made.

Oh, the other thing he is doing is picking up the correct leads on his own. That is new too. Before it was always a left lead. Now it is the correct lead if we are circling.  I still have some work to do on getting him to give me the lead I ask for in a straight line. I think the problem is more me than him.

Next came the trail work. for some reason his side passes to the right have fallen apart. That is why he will not do the rope gate from the right side. So we spent some time back on the fence side passing over.  Then we went to the poles and he didn't want to side pass to the right over them either. So we moved to the middle and tried again. He did better.  Then we just side passed to the right in the middle of the arena.  After that we tried the gate again, still a no go. I finally asked him to just stand next to it on the right, and he did that, so we left it at that. We did do the gate several times from the left, he likes it from the left. He is an odd horse!    The very last time we did it I parked him next to it, and rested. I picked up the rope, and he says, "Oh wait Lady, I can show you!"  and proceeded to almost complete the exercise on his own. He backed up, stepped through, turned his hip all on his own.  He forgot the last step but just the slightest little reminder and he finished it off.  He loves to get it right!   I know I should make him wait, but I figured what the heck, nothing wrong with letting him show off once in a while.

He did great on the box,  but I need to work on trotting over poles.  He clips them every time.  It might be that I don't have them spaced right, so I will need to talk to Mark about that.  We did some slow spins. I don't care if he can do it fast, but I like that he is getting to where his hind stays in place.  He is better to one side than the other, and he doesn't always cross with the correct leg, but again, some serious progress.

It is crazy how he is learning to recognize the obstacles and remembers what to do.  He sees the cones and automatically picks up his pace to trot through them. Very little guidance is needed from me. He snorted at our new bridge once and then went right over it.  After that it was nothing. We also pulled the log which I have got to cut down a little. TC made it way to big and heavy. Not for him but for me.  He still gets a little bothered at this task, but he is getting much better. I think it is just a matter of practice practice practice.

We ended on a positive (although I can't recall what it was now, he had so many) and I gave him some much deserved grazing time. It offered me a great time to rest as well, and of course take some pictures.

"Heaven, I'm in heaven"
Trax, I didn't know you could sing!

"Did you hear that?"
Hear what?

"Yup definitely heard something!"
I heard it too.

"It's coming from over there, they are some sort of flying horse eating monsters"
Trax, those are geese." geese eat horses?"

When I took this one I did not realize I was copying
Karen C's Header shot.
(Sorry about that Karen)

"Lady? Did you fall down?"
Nope, just resting down here enjoying how handsome you are.

"Aw shucks"

"Are you going to eat that?"
Um, don't you have grass to graze on?

"If I give you my starving pony face will you share?"
I'm pretty sure you don't like trail mix

Does anyone else think that he looks just a little on the thin side?   It is hard for me to tell because he is usually a tad chunky.  The vet rated him at a 5 on the weight scale.
 But then he said Killian was also a 5 and he isn't.

Okay, blogger is not letting me type where I want to any more, }:-(

The last thing I want to say is that with each lesson Mark asks me what I want to work on and I never really know. But now I do. The trail stuff I have down as far as what to do and how to teach him. What I really need help with is my reining patterns and even more important...
It occurred to me yesterday that we haven't taught him how to stop yet.  I still have to slow him way down to get him to stop.  I don't expect sliding stops, but he needs to at least stop.  So now I know where Mark and I really need to focus.  It is good to have a plan I guess.


  1. Cool bridge! They sure come in handy!
    Love the photos of Trax, especially that first one, he really does look like he is in heaven!

  2. Gorgeous boy! I hope you have a blast showing. I'm going to try to get a couple of fun shows under the ponies respective belts this summer - which means I need to get my butt in gear and actually put it in the saddle sometime soon, lol! Second the "cool bridge" comment.

    Trax doesn't look thin to me, but winter fuzz can be deceptive. Sounds like he's getting quite a bit of exercise - he looks like he's in good shape.

    1. Thanks, I thought he looked thin in these pictures but when I am at a normal level angle he looks about perfect. So I guess it was just the angle.