Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Guess Who I Saw Today?

I've really been missing my horse, and even trying to stay focused on the others wasn't really cutting it.  So finally I called DM and we set up a time for me to come and see how he is coming along.  

When I got there, she had just run inside to change shoes, so I went out to see Trax.   His living arrangements are much smaller than he is used too, but his stall opens up into a small round pen so he does have room to move around.   When I went to the gate he whinnied at me and came to see me.  Then when I opened the gate to go inside he turned away from me, and hid behind his own butt.  I said his name, and he turned for just a second and then looked away.  It is his pouting look.  I laughed pretty hard at him.  

DM came and got him and put him in cross ties.  


Who knew my horse would stand in cross ties?

She saddled him, and jumped right up on him.  No lunging, just got on and rode.  Of course he is getting ridden almost every day, so with that in mind I probably would have done the same.  But still it was odd to watch.  

It is odd to watch someone else ride my horse.

It is also very cool.  

Of course in his warm up stage he is less than responsive, but it really didn't take her long to get him on track.   She talked about how he has no clue where his feet are, or how to properly place his feet for anything that we are wanting him to do.   He doesn't know how to carry himself at all.  He does everything on his front end.

These are all things I have known for a while, and these are the things she is working on.  However I did take some time to explain to her this time about who he was when I got him.  I wanted her to to understand fully that while yes I do a lot of lateral work with him, and quite possibly even too much of it, there was a time when there was no lateral at all.  It was straight forward as fast as he could go and that was it.  If I had not spent the last 3 years just getting him to soften up mentally, she would have needed way more than 30 days to do anything with this horse.  But then that is what I need a trainer for.  My last training stopped at the lateral work and it is past time to move on to the next step. 

First she worked on his frame.  She would ask him to frame up by setting her hands and driving him with her legs. She never moved her hands but just kept bumping him with her legs.  The minute he lowered his head and picked himself up, she did not release her hands but released pressure with her legs.  Pretty soon he was carrying himself longer and longer, all on his own.  She asked and he held it until she asked for something different.

Then she worked on his turns.  His tendency has always been to turn on his front end.  I don't know if that is from team roping, or what, but it has always been what he has done. and I have been trying for a long time to teach him something different.  But I was doing it wrong.  

I watched as she moved him in a counter arched circle, and when he was smooth and easy crossing in front of himself in both the front and the back, then she was able to ask for a little more, and even I could see the beginning of a spin.  

As I watched her, what I saw was very much like what I remember Mark doing when I was working with him, only she was able to take it a step further.  

Then she loped and worked on teaching him to pick up his shoulder.  He has a tendency to want to lope with his shoulder dropped and one hip out, she asked him to lope in a straight line and pick up that shoulder. I could really see the difference.   Of course he still wants to throw his head up at the lope but she just set her hands and kept riding him into it, and eventually he carried it just like he is supposed too. 

Then she asked for the lead change and she got it the first try....on the front, but it took two full laps and a slap on the butt with the reins to get that hind end.  

Do any of you recall the last time I tried slapping Trax on the butt?

"YOU HIT ME!!!!!"  And then he took off at mach 9.

This was the repeat performance only her arena is not even half the size of mine so mach 9 was more like Mach 6. But clearly he was bothered by it and I said, "Yup you just lost him."  He was gone, his nose was straight up in the air.

She said, "Yes I did, but he'll be back" And she rode it out keeping her hands set and just kept asking for him to come back until he did, and then she released and he was fine.  

"The goal is to make that little tiny smack on the butt nothing more than a communication instead of a big deal."


She did some roll back work with him and I really can see the difference in him all ready. He is trying to use his hind end instead of doing everything on the front.  It is pretty awesome.  

So then she told me to get on him for just a minute.  She coached me on holding my hands steady and low, and using my legs and he melted right into my hands.  It was very cool.  We just trotted and walked around a little, and called it good.  He had already been working for an hour.  Mostly I just wanted to get a little feel for what he is becoming, and it feels nice.  

So after a week, she has done some really nice work with him.  She said that the one thing she likes about Trax is that once he "gets it" he gets it.  Where ever they left off at one day, is pretty much where they pick up the next day.   It is not a matter of going over it again and again and again.  

As we were hosing him down and putting him away, she says, "This is your one horse, isn't it?"  As in the one I am most connected too.  

I had to laugh....I guess I took it for granted that everyone who has ever met me already knew that.  

"Yes he is."

We all have the one horse who touches us someplace deep in our soul, and Trax is that horse for me.  He always has been, he always will be.  

Aww Shucks!

I have been trying to work with Melly more, and while I made progress the one day, it all fell away since then.  But I think I k now why.  First of all, that day was smooth like butter because she felt great.  She had just been worked on and all her parts were moving better.  

The very next day her and Killian got into a tiff in the pasture and I came out just in time to see them kicking the crap out of each other.  She now has two great big welts on each stifle.   I massage her every day, and try to keep her mobile as much as possible, but she is still a little stiff in the hind end again.  

Secondly the last time we did arena work I thought I was going to an ASHA clinic this Saturday (its been canceled) so I figured I'd better ramp up our obstacle work.  That was a bad idea.  She was so upset about the obstacles on the ground, she couldn't concentrate to do anything at all.  

So now I have a new approach.  

For now, at least, arena is reining and cow work.  But yesterday Simon and I took Killian and Melody to the desert.  It was her first time out there with me (perhaps even the first time ever).  She did pretty well, and I made a point of taking her through the dead trees and such to make sure she was stepping on lots of things.  She was bothered at first but then was more concerned about being left behind than being afraid.  

Her reaction to the first was was hilarious.  She said "no way"  I said, "Killian is leaving with out you."  She said, "Dammit"  and then jumped....not across but just down to the bottom.  Goofy horse.  But after that she watched her leader carefully and then followed in his foot steps. Pretty soon she was navigating them on her own and he was following her.  

All in all it was a great ride until I dropped my phone on my road and shattered it.  There went all my money for a new saddle pad! 

Here are a few pictures of the desert ride.  

She was not sure about all this cotton!

Killian of course was his usual awesome trail horse self.  He puts up with so much from Simon, and just handles it.  It is hard to see but he is actually getting in better shape.  He trotted the entire ride, without even trying to slow down.  That is progress for him.  

So my goal with Melly is to keep with the desert riding until it is boring for her and then I will set up poles and other obstacles out there, to where it is just part of what we do.  Then we will bring it back to the arena and see if it is easier for her.  It is really all I know to do at this point.  In the mean time, she will be my sorting horse, there is lots of that coming up and she is so darned good at it, and hopefully I will be better.  


  1. Sounds like you are having really good horse things happening! So excited for the progress Trax is making.

  2. I think your idea for Melody is a good one. YOU are a lot more comfortable getting your horses to do thing when you are riding out in the desert and that will transfer to Melody. When you return to doing obstacles with her in the arena, try to think of things the way you view them when riding in the open. You want to go to destination X, but have to cross obstacle Y to get you cross obstacle Y. I think what happens to you in the arena is that you get too focused on training over the obstacle and not focused enough on the destination beyond it that you are trying to get too. Does that make sense?

    I was nodding along as you described what the trainer was telling you. LOL. I know that's not the first time you've heard a lot of that. (wink). And while I know that part of the reason you explain things in depth on the blog is to create a whole picture, you HAVE to start letting Trax's past go. You worked your butt off to get that horse past the vast majority of his issues. Now it's time to let go of all of the baggage about what Trax 'was' and reset your mind to accept him as he is now...A pretty normal, mature horse that needs some finish training on him.

  3. Hi there! It's been a long time. It sounds like you're making such good progress with your horses, AND yourself. Awesome news about Trax, he's really coming through. I read BEC comment, and think she's got wonderful advice for you. The part about forgetting Trax's past is exactly what I hear from trusted friends about my opinion of Eagle. He was once abused. He was handled roughly and has issues because of that. But he's coming full circle. He is not THAT horse any longer...I have to put the history out of my mind and work with the horse I have today. Easier said than done, but valid advice. Sometimes we're our own worst enemies, which makes us an obstacle for our horses moving forward. It sounds like you're having so much fun!! Wish I could come ride with you for a couple months this winter!! :)

    1. It is so good to hear from you again! Yes we are having lots of fun. And you are right, as is BEC. I have got to let go of the past and ride the horse I have today.

  4. Awww man that sucks about your phone!!! :(

    I'm glad things are going well with Trax at training. It sounds like he's doing really well. I love a horse like him that can pick up where he left off and doesn't have to go over the same thing over and over. :)

    I just read a post on a blog about bits, so I have a question about his bit. I normally wouldn't even notice if I hadn't just read that post, so please don't feeling like I'm criticizing or anything. Trax is wearing a Tom Thumb bit right? Is she riding him on contact in it? When you say she sets her hands and rides him into it that sounds like riding on a contact to me. Tom Thumb bits are leverage bits which makes them really harsh for contact work. Does she have a regular snaffle she could use that doesn't have shanks? Anyway, sorry I'm not trying to butt in. I grew up using nothing but Tom Thumb bits and I was shocked when I learned later how harsh they are.

    I love the cotton picture with Melody. Her responses had me giggling. So scary, but can't be left behind! Hehe! I'm glad she's figuring it all out. Keep up the great work with her!

    1. Actually he is not in a Tom Thumb, you could not pay me enough money to put one of those on my horses. He is in a Mylar Comfort Snaffle with short shanks. I went through many different bits with him and this one is the one I found which seems to work the best. He responds to it the best. I have used D-ring snaffles on him, and I told her that she could again if she wanted as long as it is not twisted wire. He has a large cut across his tongue and finding a bit that does not fall in the crack and then pinch the crap out of him was challenging. The Mylar, while broken in the middle, also has a pivot piece. So it cannot fold completely in half but you can work each rein individually if needed. I do appreciate your input!

    2. Oh awesome!! I'm so glad it's not a Tom Thumb. :-) that's sad about his tongue! I'm glad you found one that doesn't pinch him. Finding the right bit can be such a challenge. Good job!!

  5. Sounds great all around! Glad Trax is doing well, I bet you miss him