Horribly Outdated

26 10 2010

Yes… I know…. I have been serious BAD about updating my blog with Picasso’s progress. I should be whipped…..

But here is an update: SO FAR SO GOOD!!!!!

Picasso has been steadily increasing his workouts the past couple months. We added in cantering and are doing pretty well!

In a recent lesson with Emily Giamonna, we experimented with a shorter rein. I have been riding Picasso long and low in an effort to get him to use his top line correctly. But either due to my lack of skill or some other variable, I have been unable to accomplish this… One theory is that his underneck is so well developed, which he did in his spare time…. that even in a long and low position, he is still using it…… Hmmm…. In the photo above he is still using that underneck…..

So how are his cysts?? So far, not a problem. I believe the combination of stem cells and Tildren have shored up the weakness… at least for the workload we have been doing. We have been doing 15-20 minutes of lunging, followed by 10 mins walk, 10 trot, 15-20 of trot with a smidge of canter. That’s about a typical day. I also mix in hill work.


In Hand with Manolo Mendez

20 08 2010

I had the opportunity to have a lesson with an amazing dressage trainer, Manolo Mendez. Manolo is an artist with horses. That’s really what it comes down to. Artistry, dexterity, and unimaginable skill. Picasso was a bit back sore last week, so I opted for an in hand lesson. The lesson was amazing. Pica and Manolo hit it off and liked each other very much. Have a looksey…

If you ever have the chance to work with him, do not hesitate, do not equivocate…. Just do it.

New Authors

25 02 2010

So since I can’t populate this blog with daily, thrilling, awe inspiring, jaw dropping content, I will be inviting some of my horsey friends to author posts. My friend Amanda is the first to take the plunge! Amanda is proudly owned by her mare, Motion Granted aka MG. These two are lovely together, and interact rather like sisters. Some days totally in love, other days……. 🙂 But there is a deep bond between the two, and I am very happy to have Amanda here!

Pica’s Got a Fan Club

24 02 2010

Okay – Pica’s mom has exposed me to the world of wordpress – and an opportunity to join in blogging about “My Life with Horses”. So I’ll start with a quickie post on spending an afternoon with the infamous Pica.

It was a cold and windy day when we pulled up to Circle Oak and the first thing I saw was Pica’s head hanging out of the end stall waiting for mom to hurry up and get out of the car. He has so much personality and you can always see his mind thinking a million miles a minute. His love for his person is priceless.

The rest of the afternoon I had the honor to learn the teachings of Katie and Pica – a true team of whit, intelligence, and challenges. Pica delighted me with tricks of bucket tossing and high kicks and was kind to me as I attempted to practice my ground work skills and horse psychology. There is an art to having a solid partnership with a horse and the most critical is respect. Pica and Katie are a prime model for what every owner should have with their beloved horse.

After my visit I drove straight to the barn and pulled my own horse MG out to work on our communication skills. It lasted about a minute before she turned her mare butt around and said off we thee mom! 🙂

Ms. Princess in her princess pad


Teaching Picasso some manners

10 02 2009

So I visited a great trainer this weekend. Her name is Robin Gates. She is down in Sonoma County. Robin does liberty training and uses Carolyn Resnick’s method, since they have been close friends for years. I had sent Robin some clips of horses I have worked with in order to get some feedback on my technique. We discussed some of the overarching philosophy of her training and how to properly apply it. We mainly discussed my dear Picasso. It seems I have let him become a wee bit disrespectful.

As I sit and reflect on Robin’s advice, I realize I let Picasso do some things I would never accept from a client’s horse. In one clip, you can see Picasso “herding” me. I would not allow another horse to do that, but I guess in my attempt to get my horse to LOVE me, I let him get away with some naughty things. Now I am tasked with fixing this pattern.

So Robin gave me some great advice and some great tasks. The first was to teach Picasso the “head up” and “head down” cues. Basically, while he is eating something (hay, grass, grain) I should be able to control when he eats and when he doesn’t. This is the first lesson a horse learns from his mom or from the herd. My task was to say “Head up!” If Picasso did not respond, I should say it again and this time give him a tap somewhere (I chose his withers) to get his head to pop up. If it came up, I should praise and then give him the head down cue and pull his head down by the halter. In this way, Picasso will learn “head up” means bring your head up; “head down” means bring your head down. Also, I am not to use the lead line in any way to direct his head.

Because Picasso is a piggy, I had to chose how hard the tap should be. I felt it needed to be a medium sized tap. Hard enough to get that head up, but not so hard he flipped down. So I brought Picasso over to some nice, juicy grass. He thought…… well he thought of nothing but the grass. All other things on earth disappeared as he wrapped his lips around that first mouthful of juicy, grassiness. I let him get all situated with a snort full of grass. As he was merrily munching away, I made sure my lead rope was slack, stepped next to his withers and said “Head up!” Nothing…… So I said it again and this time followed it with a whack with the end of my lead rope at his withers.

Whoa! His head came up in total shock. He took a few steps backward and just looked at me. “What the hell was that for?” Okay, maybe that was a wee bit hard. I said “Good boy” and before he could get his head back down (which he was half way through doing anyway) I grabbed his halter and gently pulled his head down saying “Head down.”

Okay, now I needed to do it again, but this time with a bit less enthusiasm. I layed the lead rope over his back to assure myself I wouldn’t pull on it. I let Picasso get delirious with the grass again and then I said “Head up.” I followed it with a tap with my hand to his withers. His head came up again like it was spring loaded. He took one step away from me, probably hoping that I would leave him alone if he moved. He started to drop his head, so I grabbed his halter again and pulled down saying “Head down.” He learned that cue very quickly.. Go figure………

I siddled up to his withers again, rubbing his back, and cooing to him. I then said “Head up,” waiting to see if he would bring his head up without the tap. He brought it up, but only about halfway. He appeared to be weighing his choices. “If I don’t bring it up, I get a tap; but what will happen if I do bring it up?” He knew I would tap him if he didn’t do it, so about halfway up his eye was on me, waiting to see what I would do. He then brought it all the way up. I said “Good,” and quickly took him by the halter and said “Head down.”

In an effort to give him a break and let him forget I was there again, I then took my shedding brush and proceeded to “de-mud” my not-so-grey grey horse. I groomed him for a bit and then wanted to see if he would still bring his head up. I said “Head up.” Picasso immediately and efficiently brought his head up. Once up, he started to go down. I said “Uh uh.” He kept it up for a few seconds. I was trying to get him to realize the command is “Keep your head up until I say head down.” I then said “Good boy.” “Good boy” for Picasso seems to mean “You’re done.” So again he tried to drop his head. I said “Uh uh.” He kept it up a few more seconds. I then grabbed his halter and said “Head down.”

Over the course of maybe 20 minutes, we did this dance a few more times. By the end, I could say “Head up” and his head would come up. When I said “Good boy,” he would still try to drop, but I would then say “Uh uh” and he would keep it up. I then said “Head down” and he needed no encouragement to drop his head back into grass heaven.

Ms. Zephyrine

7 02 2009

I had this great little mare in for training during the fall of 2008.  Her name is Zephyrine, aka Zephy. Zephy is a 3 yr old Andalusian-Arabian.  Zephy is a dream girl.  She is sweet, spunky, curious, and down right gorgeous!

When Zephy first arrived, she stepped off the trailer and immediately there was an energy in the air around her.

zephy1Look at that face!

Along with being all those descripters above, Zephy was also opinionated.  Before she was brought to me, I went down to her home to meet her.  While there I discovered she wasn’t a fan of the “squeeze”, i.e. going through doorways or anywhere there was a solid wall on at least one side.  I also discovered she was a bit “sided.” Zephy was not a fan of being led, pet, or at all messed with on the right side.  While fiddling with her at our first meeting, I would go on to her right side and she would deftly move herself around to put me back on her left side.  Cute….

So, back to her arrival to me.  The day after she arrived, I went down to get Ms Zephy.  I thought I’d grab Picasso too, walking two horses…. no biggie. Oh was I wrong. I had Picasso, I went to grab Zephy. As Picasso stood outside her pasture, I haltered her and made her walk through her gate, not fly. Well, at this point I thought I wa safe. No…… Little did I know, the tarp of death was at her feet. As I walked Picasso over it, Zephy launched herself over the tarp. She rammed into meand then flew by me. Two of my rather long nails snapped backwards and I got a massive rope burn across my hand. Once over the tarp, Zephy was still wired. Turns out this was her M.O. When pressured or spooked, she would spurt forward. I was able to remedy this tendency with one session, although total habit rehab took more time. We started with leg yields so she knew what I meant when I told her to move her hinny.

When Zephy looks away from me, she bends her ribcage into me or into my space. That, in horse society, is disrespectful. She is essentially saying, “That thing over there is way more important than you, so if I decide it’s too scary, we’re leaving.” So, by tapping her ribs, I am calling her on her disrespect and asking for her attention. Its amazing how subtly a horse can show lack of respect for their handler. Carolyn Resnick talks about how horses will nip each other when one horse is not paying attention. Horses establish hierarchy by catching each other of guard. If I can surpirse Zephy when she is not paying attention to me, I can establish my leadership. I am always aware of her, she needs to be always aware of me. As you can see, she improves dramatically after only a few repetitions.

Zephy has a great heart and mind. More on Zephy later.

A wonderful day with Picasso

21 01 2009

I had a lovely day with my guy Picasso. I started out my day with going out into Pica’s pasture just to hang with him. It has been unseasonally wamr here and all of the horses at the ranch are taking advantage. Most were out in the sun. Some were napping, some were playing. I called with Pica as I came down the hill to his gate. He was down at the end of his pasture, but he started to walk up the hill to meet me. I climbed through his gate, said howdy and walked down the pasture into the sun. I walked down ahead of him while he stood in his stall at the top of the hill. When I was about half way down, he came running down behind me, slidding in the light mud to a stop right next to me. After some scratches, he dropped his head and started to graze. After about 15 minutes, he and I walked up to the gate and I haltered him. We walked up to the barn and found a friend getting his feet trimmed, Skip. Skip is owned by Brianna. We invited them to walk to the mail boxes, a decent walk to the end of our dirt road. We all walked down chatting about Brianna’s new horse, a cutie pa-tootie 2 yr old filly named Dixie. Dixie currently lives right next to the mail boxes! She is a black and white paint and so darned cute, I’ll have to get a picture of her…..

When we got back, I decided I might try riding since we haven’t done that much in a while. I decided to ride in a halter which we do occasionally. We got down to the arena and started to do some work. After some walking and trotting, I thought maybe we could canter….. Pica did bucked me off once while cantering. It wasn’t a mean buck, it was a playful buck. Anyway, I asked for a canter and he lifted up into the canter very nicely. He has to date been a bit fast and out of balance in the canter. But today he was great!!! His right lead canter was a bit out of balance. But he was so sweet and kind with me. I had a huge grin plastered all over my face.

After such a nice performance, I decided he was done, so I got off and we went back to the barn. I untacked him and chatted with the other trainer at the barn about the horse she had in for training. While we discussed the best way to reintroduce a horse to bridling, I got back on Pica bareback and allowed him to graze some. Here is a pic from my vantage point:


After some time chatting and letting Pica graze, we went back down to his pasture. I unhaltered him at the gate and we ran down the hill together into his pasture. Once at the bottom, I sat down in the warm afternoon sunshine. I sat there, staring up at Pica’s big dark eyes. He leaned down and sniffed me, no doubt looking for some form of food. After finding none, he cocked his hip and started to shut his eyes. As I sat, sheltered under his head and neck I thought of how incredibly lucky I am to have such a great bond with my horse.

Here are some pictures:

Picasso giving me a sniff

I got an itch!

Getting a smooch

My guardian