Vote for Patrick-He is CUTE

My friend's baby is in this contest and well, there isn't a prize, except to prove he is the cutest! He needs your vote by April 4th, so vote soon!


I know, it has nothing to do with horses, but he is so cute AND when I met him he was like that the whole time.


Homeward Bound

After more than a week away from the dogs and ponies, I will head back tomorrow to my beloved home.

Uriah and I spent the last week at Disneyland, on a cruise and in hollywood. We are sick and tired of people, loud music, drunks, lines and screaming children. I am also sick, so instead of attending my conference today I spent most of it in a drug induced stupor waiting for the day to be over. I did manage to get over and see the guys (Cam and Jon), but didn't feel like coughing on potential customers was a great way to create a positive image of our product.

We are packed and ready and should be home tomorrow by 3 PM or so. I can't wait to see those dogs and horses. Going on vacation reminds me where I really like to be: at home.


Level 1 here I come

This weekend I did the advanced level 1 Parelli Clinic with Ann Kiser. She signed off on much of my ground skills/7 games (with the exception of picking up feet) and now I just need to send in my riding skills. Since I feel like I have that down, I will get that sent it ASAP.

The clinic did a good job of reconfirming some things I already do, to help refine my ability to be assertive NOT agressive, to help my horse through her fear of other horses by being her leader and giving me a few new things to work on.

Uriah and I stayed the night with Bruce and Betty so it was a very enjoyable weekend.

Trust me, I'll be cracking the Level 2 pack as soon as I get back from vacation. I feel like I have been doing a lot of the Level 1 stuff forever, since I did my first natural horsemanship clinic, but I like the Parelli stuff much better (and I am getting better results)-amazingly enough, I am moving forward. So I am SO looking forward to level 2.


How to Teach Your Horse to Back Part 2

So you read Part 1 and made some progress with some fluid backing of your horse. You can now ask for 3 or 4 or maybe even more steps so you want to be able to back your horse under saddle.

So how to you get your horse to back up under saddle? It isn't quite as easy right? Here are a few tips to ask your horse to move backwards under saddle.

First, put the halter you use on your horse in addition to the bridle, and tie your lead rope as reins. DON'T DO THIS AS YOUR ONLY FORM OF CONTROL IF YOU HAVE NOT RIDDEN YOUR HORSE THIS WAY BEFORE. But this is an excellent way to approach backing by putting steady pressure on the nose-the same place you did on the ground, now it is just with the halter and not your hand.

Be consistent and use steady pressure, do not give until you feel a give from your horse. Start light and get heavier only as needed. If your horse makes an effort, then RELEASE. It is the release that teaches your horse so even if your horse only tucks his nose, that is a start.

As you get your horse 'giving' to the noseband (start there to preserve the sensitivity of the mouth) also try to slightly lift your seat out of the saddle and lean forward just a hare. You will be amazed how much easier it will be for your horse to move with your weight off of their back. By shifting your weight forward you give them the ability to move the rear. The moment your horse takes a step, release. Continue with these steps until you can get several fluid steps.

Once your horse is relaxed in backing, pick up the bit. You can also work on improving the subtly of your weight shift so it is not perceptable to anyone but your horse. Eventually if you are consistent, your horse will back merely off of that.

Trouble shooting: start with the lightest pressure. If you grab ahold of your horses face they can flip back (hitting you in the head) or perhaps rear. Think light, light light.

Don't jiggle your reins. If you have taught your horse to back off of pressure on the ground, don't try jiggling, it will only confuse them.

Don't trap your horse: It is tempting to give them a small space to start in, but backing is scary so give them an open space to build trust.

Don't expect perfection: Your horse may only take one step at a time possibly sideways or crooked. That is OK, give them some latitude, they are entrusting their safety to you.

And tomorrow, backing the unbackable.
PS Don't let go of your reins when backing-I was just being silly in the picture!


How to Not Sell Your Horse

1. Make sure to have the papers, but definately don't register.

2. Breed a cross, especially to a moderate qualilty stallion or mare.

3. Absolutely don't put a picture.

4. Make sure your horse is green and 'needs miles'.

5. Ensure your horse is for an 'intermediate' rider or more.

6. If it is a gaited horse, make sure it doesn't gait, if it is a WTC (walk/trot/canter) horse make sure it needs some work on picking up leads.

7. Please don't spell check, use proper grammer and MAKE sure you sound as uneducated as possible.

8. Never, ever put the bloodlines of your horse in the ad.

9. Provide descriptions 'Doesn't bite, kick, rear and loads, bathes, good for feet' as your description of the horses ground manners

and finally,

10. Under no circumstances should you ever put time, effort, energy or training into the horse AND make sure to charge more than well trained purebred horses with good bloodlines, impecciable manners who have excellent conformation and proper gaits.

How to Teach Your Horse To Back Part 1

So your horse makes a funny face at you and sticks out their tongue when you ask them to back. You are not alone. Here are a few tips to help your horse be comfortable backing up.

So first, observe-when does your horse back up without your supervision? Probably not all that often. They might back up when getting a nasty face from a higher ranking herd mate, or perhaps trapped in a small space with no place to go forward (trailer/hallway). A horse goes backward when they have no other option. They would rather turn left or right and most importantly, they want to GO FORWARD!!! Remember that is the horses instinct and remember to be patient when teaching them to back.

Backing is about trust. For a prey animal who is genetically designed to go forward-backing is a matter of trust so if your relationship fails, your backing probably will too.

So first, start on the ground. Ask your horse to move away from you using the lightest pressure possible, slowly increasing the pressure until they move backwards. I suggest starting with the nose and remember-if they can feel a fly land on them, they can feel your lightest touch. What you do next depends on your horse. If they don't back, haven't ever thought about backing or got up on the wrong side of the stall this morning, maybe you start using pressure and instead of taking several fluid steps back your horse just thinks about it by leaning back. THAT IS OK. Release the pressure.

Start over. Start simple, ask for a little bit at a time. So if at the end of 15 minutes you get one step, that is OK, find a positive place to stop and try again tomorrow. Be very patient, this is not easy stuff and remember to always give your horse the opportunity to move off the lightest pressure.

You can also ask your horse to move off the chest (or wherever you wish). This teaches your horse to be responsive to pressure which he is NOT by nature. Ok, come on, raise your hand if your horse has ever leaned into you. Look around you and see that everyone else has their hand raised too. Horses thrive on pressure, so reward them by moving off of it by RELEASING at the appropriate time. It will lighten the response and make you all happier.

More to come tomorrow, some under saddle strategies. . .

PS I found a video on Youtube for backing your horse-it involved a shanked bit and spurs, so I decided against it.


Bit by Bit

In my years of learning about horses there are just a few things that I recommend for EVERYONE regardless of skill level or experience. For some examples, I recommend ground work and natural horsemanship to everyone AT LEAST to give it a try.

But one I would make required for all horse people is the video 'A Whole Bit Better' which was produced by the Myler brothers to explain the Myler Bit System and most importantly, just some basics about bitting.

After watching the video I was able to evaluate Precious' bit evasion and make a choice of the bit I would put in her mouth. She was in training at the time and you know what? The trainer tried 6 bits and settled on the one, the same that I had chosen. We did not communicate, but he figured it out in a different way-this is a man who has been on horses since he was 4 and never done anything but train horses. You can see some before and after pictures on the Mylers website here.

Yes, the video is a sales pitch, but there is a LOT of good information in it, something we all need.

So-the point of this evangalism is-you are SO LUCKY! You can hear Bob Myler (and ask him questions) LIVE tomorrow (March 12th at 5 PM Pacific). You can sign up here or visit Equine Teleseminar. Usually she also offers a copy of the call to purchase which I would suggest. I don't know the content yet, but I can guarentee it will be good stuff.

The Mylers used to come to the Oregon State Fair and helped me in person one year, they are great great people. I can't speak of this highly enough.


Ride A Test

Today I went to Beautiful Gaits farm and did my first Ride A Test. In Dressage you ride different tests in different levels. In the US there are two introductory levels to the lower levels of dressage (1-4th). There are several tests for each of the levels, but at the very very very beginning before you get all fancy, you start with Introductory A.

And that, is what I did today with Lily. It is a very simple pattern, probably taking me 3 minutes and the 15 minutes that followed were some of the best I have ever had in all horse activities. Usually you get scores from the judge and then you are given a percentile based on the total possible points. So for instance, if you get 114 out of 200 points, you get 57% and that is generally the common discussion point for test to test, evaluation of horses, etc. And it isn't like school where 60% is barely passing, instead with scores of 60% you should generally consider moving to the next level.

The great thing about the Ride A Test is that the judge came out and gave me 15 minutes of her time and talked about what was good and what was not. So here is the result:

I got a 57%. I am SO pleased with myself I can't get over it. I did not get a below a 5 and I also got a couple of 7's. The judge said we were VERY consistent and she was very pleased with the basic rhythm. She said I rode well and had a very nice rising trot. She helped me with 10 meter circles because I overshot the centerline by about 10 feet. She helped me with my transitions and asked me questions. At the end she said to me 'You have a very good understanding of the sport. You have obviously studied or done your homework and you should just go and DO'.

Simrat took video and I can't wait to watch the judges feedback-it is always tough to remember everything that was said. But when I went home, I felt good. I felt REALLY good. Dressage is so good for me because it is 1. an individual sport with only one rider at a time 2. athletic for both the horse and the rider 3. skill building for horse and rider 4. very goal oriented.

When I worked in retail a while back we were judged on 7 different attributes. Each day based on our success we were ranked against the other stores (all 750) of them. Your daily ranks led to monthly ranks and so on. And for each 7 you were measured against the other stores in your area (say 10 of them). Your boss was always happy when you were #1 out of those 10. When I started my department (which I managed) was ranked 500 out of 750. I told my senior associate at that time what they key to being in the top 10 nationally was. It wasn't about being amazing at any one attribute, but being good at all of them. We didn't have to be #1 at any of those just #3 or #4 in all of them. Slowly but surely I focused on my teams core competencies, I worked on making them more consistent and eventually we were always #3 or #4 in all 7 attributes in our region. That changed our national rankings and when I left we were #7 out of 750. That is top 1%.

There are many keys to dressage that I am sure I will figure out over time. But I know numbers and statistics and I can guarantee you this, the same principle applies, be consistent, work on your core competencies and do a good job and everything and the scores will come.


The bit is a priviledge not a right

I have been priviledged to use my horse several times as a lesson horse. There are many people who know Precious that might find it astounding that I use her for lessons, but you couldn't ask for a better lesson horse. She is safe, responsive, willing AND doesn't just always do everything asked, she will challenge the rider slowly, when they are ready for it, improving the learning curve, but never more than they can handle.

But beginners don't get access to her mouth. I worked very hard to make her soft in the bridle and response to all of the aids and she doesn't deserve to have inexperienced hands tugging at her mouth. Her bit of choice is a myler version of a mullen mouth pellum, which includes a small amount of leverage (although we don't tighten the curb chain), so I am always careful about who touches the reins attached to it.

Instead I will students a rope halter or a bosol. More and more I prefer a rope halter and it bothers the horses less than the leather of the bosol (I do not use a traditional cowboy rawhide bosol, instead I use traditional Paso Fino tack which looks basically like a leather halter with two rings under the chin for attaching reins. I use a plain noseband without any heavy equipment.

Precious hates the bosol. Once I started paying attention to the different types of pressure it was very aparent that she MUCH disliked nose pressure. She is so happy to ride with her bit in but even a few minutes in the bosol will have her showing unhappiness (and yes, this horse can be occasionally happy).

Well, after a year I let Juliana use the reins with the bit attached. Last night they were such a beautiful picture and I was really proud of Juliana because she had the perfect contact without pulling or letting her reins be too free. It takes time to earn the priviledge of the bit and especially of a horse who responds to it.


5 Reasons to LOVE Daylight Savings

Daylight Savings is March 9th! It is one of my favorite days of the year, here are 5 reasons I LOVE Daylight savings:

1. I can ride in the outdoor arena until 7:30 (and later every day)
2. I do not need a flashlight/headlamp to get to the manure pile.
3. I can ride in the pasture until 7:30 (and later every day)
4. We can clean paddocks without a headlamp
5. I can ride anywhere I want outside until 7:30 (and later every day)

Do you sense a theme here? When I first started boarding, the barn owner told me she would buy me a 'Happy Daylight Savings Card' if she could ever find one.

YIPEE! Since I usually don't get home until 5:30 or 6:00, I now have plenty of time to enjoy our HUGE outdoor arena (80x190). I LOVE LIFE ON THE FARM!


Creative Problem Solving

Every day I work the Parelli program and watch a video, I learn something new. I will not call it life changing, but it is horse changing. I know, I know, it is cult like in people's passion for it. I get that, but if it makes me better with my horses, than what does that matter? Here is my story for yesterday:

Pam gave me some barrels she had laying around her place and we had bought a 3" 8 foot fence post when making fencing choices, so I decided to use that as a rail to practice along with my other obstacles. I was struggling to get Precious to yo-yo over it. For those not familiar with Parelli, the Yo-Yo game is the 4th game which basically asks a horse to come forward and go backwards off of your line with you standing in the same place. It has many excellent purposes including teaching your horse NOT to run out of his/her stall. Very effective for horses like Precious.

I digress.

Rather than forcing her to go forward and backward (my way), I started thinking about how I could make it easier for her to be successful and not so scared. So I took the pole and put one end against the wall. OK, first step solved, but she kept going around the end, so I put a barrel against the end of the pole (long ways).

After playing the squeeze game (#7), which is asking the horse to go through a small space, turning them and asking them to face the small space, over the pole, I was able to get a couple of feet over it and lots of back and forth. Precious eventually offered to go sideways, so I accepted and shortly thereafter, she sidepassed over the barrel.

Six months ago I could have gotten Precious to do the same thing, but we both would have been tired, frustrated and upset. Instead, I was elated, happy, she was calm and relaxed and she let me give her a big hug and happily accepted a carrot. Parelli doesn't change your horse, it changes you. How can you argue with that?