My favorite part of retraining

Right now I can’t help but to smile reading Klondike’s blog about flapping pieces of plastic and tornado winds which do not seem to bother him. Klondike is a macho type of horse. When he travels to new places he gets off the trailer with the attitude of look at me…I’m a sexy beast so look at me.  He would prance around with his tail in the air until you couldn’t help but notice him. Then you got on him and he went to work like he has been doing it forever. His attitude about life always made me smile. He loved to work!

Part of getting new horses is making sure they settle into life on the farm and can relax into their new fields with buddies who won’t cause them to much anxiety. Dixie is a wimp and I hurt is pride when I removed him from his girlfriend and put him in with three other boys. He sulked in a corner and refused to join the others. Then he tried being friendly and my horse Junior kept chasing him. I gave it a few days to work itself out but finally I decided Junior (real smart-ass) must be relocated because he was the one causing the issues. So he got to move in with Charlie the other smart-ass so they could torment each other and Indy moved into the big field with Dixie, Boppus and my old boy Mr. Jones. This has worked out well and Dixie now is comfortable and will go out and eat hay with the other horses. I even caught him chasing Indy this morning..Indy the bigger wimp that Dixie.

 Dixie has ran away from me the past two times I have went out to catch him. I don’t worry about this behavior because being worked after just hanging out in a field for the past seven months must really be a drag. He thinks he should just eat hay and hang out with his friends. After five minutes of me standing there waiting for him to come back to where his hay was he gave in. He has become much more comfortable in the barn and is now standing nicely on the cross-ties with no issues. I keep an eye on him and don’t wander to far away but he knows the treats are in the tack room and he keeps his eyes on me whenever I am in there hoping I will be returning with treat. Yes, I spoil my horses with treats. I do believe giving treats helps bring out some personality so I give them some right before I bridle them and again when we return from work.

We had the tornado force winds yesterday and the whole barn was rattling. I wasn’t too worried about heading out on him though because he has already shown he has a super mind and the wind shouldn’t be an issue. He was a bit more on edge so I was not able to really get the relaxation on him today.

I also noticed from my pictures that I left the flash on my bridle (he shares with Junior) and he might not have liked that as much because he felt a bit stiffer in the jaw. He also could have been stiff because he had the previous day off and his muscles are a bit tight. I realized we simply weren’t going to have our best work so we did more simple things and started asking him to move off the leg at the walk and supple the neck. He doesn’t seem at all impressed with the leg and pushed back on the leg instead of moving away from it. This is common and something we will work on. I will do some groundwork with this and also see if a little spur might help or a light tap with a dressage whip. He’s the quiet type that is just very dull off the leg..which is good because it’s easy to teach them to move away from the leg rather than to have them panic and scoot when you touch them with leg.

 His canter is getting better each time and he is able to pick it up without the running shuffle. I am staying light off his back in a 3pt position which enables him to carry himself a little easier since he doesn’t have the muscle right now to hold the canter with weight on him.

 The funniest part was the jumping. I love teaching greenies to jump but I know many people would rather skip it all together because it’s sorta like being flung around in all sorts of direction. My husband had come out with me and made one jump into a x-rail that was very small. He moved the barrel that was under it and sat it standing up next to the jump. Dixie couldn’t take his eye off the barrel long enough to focus on the jump so I had to walk around the barrel a few times to let him realize it wasn’t going to eat him. The hardest part about teaching greenies to jump is getting them straight. I felt like I was riding a drunken version of Dixie. We were left, right and sideways on the way to the jump. They try to run out because why should they jump but I make it small enough that they can step over it from any angle. I do believe it’s important to not let them refuse if at all possible. In the beginning, I start small and then add some scarier type stuff but keep it very small so they learn even if it’s scary we can still step right over it. He was totally unimpressed with the whole concept of this bigger x-rail (up to now we had basically been doing piles of poles). I don’t think he even picked his legs up once but that is 100% normal in the beginning. He would just sorta step higher and then canter away. Good boy! Very relaxed and boring is what I strive for.

 I really want them to think for themselves so I basically steer and add leg but do nothing more. I don’t give them big kicks to get them to pick up or look for a distance. They need to just figure it out and I am there for support but don’t do much besides give a baby release (it’s just a little x-rail). Sometimes after a few sessions of jumping these x-rails you start thinking this horse has no scope and will never make a good jumper but then they will suprise you and just one day wake up and figure it all out. Then they start jumping you out of the tack and you regret ever thinking they would be good jumpers 🙂

I am very pleased with how Dixie handles himself. He may not act athletic yet but I feel it in there. It doesn’t take much to make me happy and a horse that tries is a good horse in my book. I had one horse that took me three months just to get him over an x-rail. I would call Allie and complain how rotten he was and how he just didn’t get it. He was talented and jumped with his knees to his chin when he decided to jump! The one day he just figured out jumps were okay and progress was made. When I introduced him to new jumps I still had to be careful because he had a pretty quick stop in him but wasn’t I suprised when I started showing him and he jumped around the hunter courses without a look. By taking my time and building his confidence he developed braveness. You couldn’t forget to ride but he came a long way from the horse that was afraid of a ground-pole and would snort and run backwards 🙂 I try to remember horses don’t have a time-line so you tailor your program to each horse. Dixie is easy so I feel okay introducing small jumps. He is not at all concerned or nervous about them. Quite the opposite actually. Sometimes, I forget I am on such a greenie because he has a very grown up attitude and feels more advanced then he is.

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