Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Lesson- 1; Casualties- 0

An afternoon at the beach after a bumpy start to the day = balance!
Today my son and I had a great learning opportunity.  He was waiting for me to walk our horse to someone's house who had offered for me to use their hose to give Rocky a bath. Begging had ensued the night before, "Pleeease let me take my bike and I'll ride while you get Rocky . . ."  So a big production was made about getting his bike ready and how much fun it would be for him to have a flat area to ride in.

As I head off the few blocks down the road to get to the horse and walk him back after once again explaining the procedure that HE'D requested, Atticus is beaming ear to ear, riding in this gated area with his helmet on.  Ten minutes later as he sees Rocky and I walking down the road he is shrieking, "Mom, Mom, you left me."  (Okay lesson learned.  I can't trust that my seven year old will remember ANY plan that involves me being out of his sight, even if he devised it.) 

"I didn't know where you were!!!!"  As his shrieks are bouncing over to us I can see Rocky tense, ears perk and he begins to nervously hop around.  I take deep breaths and try to remain calm while I am imploring my son, loudly, to hold his voice down and be calm (yes, spaz-crazy mess).  The next thing I know, Rocky is in full spook mode as he was more frequently in the very early days and hasn't been for quite a while.  I was having to continue to shush Atticus after initially hollering to reassure him-- all fairly tense energy.  Stubborn as he is, it took Atticus a while to get the picture that he really HAD to calm himself or he was putting me and Rocky in danger as Rocky reacted as if he was a steam engine being shoveled full of coal.  Eventually Rocky calmed more and was able to enjoy his bath, even though two previous pasture mates were within neighing distance.  My son helped with the bath and we were able to discuss and he could see, concretely, how much his energy and actions could affect another living being.  All in all a good lesson.

My point?  We are always coached to remain calm at all times if we want our horses to be calm.  I was lucky that my first horse, Misty, was the best girl ever and very calm; she was also eighteen when I got her.  Rocky was a five year old different story and it is has been apparent how my and other's personal energy affects him.

If that phenomenon exists with our animal mates/friends think about how it rubs off around our human mates/friends.  Are your ever around people that are so jittery, have pressured speech, are negative or overly angry that you can actually feel the effect . . . as if it's causing visceral changes in you?  THAT'S what interferes with the horse focusing on what he needs to be doing, THAT feeling.   

We all need to be aware of who and what helps and hinders our "energy fields/level" and work towards mastering the only entity we can control: ourselves.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Title One: Filling the Void-----Title Two: Sold on NO Bit!!!

Sunday's ride: first big bit-less ride
 A lot has been happening.

This past Sunday, our oldest two boys left to return to the US after a three and a half week stay.  Their four younger sibs had to leave over a week earlier to get back to school.  It has been an amazing time and just lovely to see our kids appreciate the beauty surrounding us in New Zealand AND each other.  Our oldest daughter, Kate and her partner arrive in a few days and will stay for two weeks; then, all nine of our children will have spent time with us in our new country.

I was cast in a play and rehearsals have begun in earnest.  The play runs in early March.  There are lines to be learned and to say that I haven't been able to give getting "off book" my total attention would be an understatement.  Lines must be down by the end of this month.

After rehearsal on Sunday, to assuage my empty nest and pour attention on my other child, I took Rocky on another bitless bridle ride, but this one was full-blown.  The ride was approximately 4 mile ride--give more than take--including on the beach, out to the island and back and past the scary gecko-stone.  I swear not having a bit in his mouth is causing him to spook and startle less.

He was a champ, to the point that I pretty much neck reined (Western riding, holding the reins in one hand and having the other hand free) the entire ride.  He worked well with the neck reining focus (I've  been practicing neck reining all along with the direct/plow reining) and I couldn't believe how much more comfortable I was in the seat and relaxed in the ride not having to hold with both hands and do the plow/direct reining.  Ironically, I am much more balanced and at ease if I am only holding the reins with one hand.  It's how I've been used to riding for years and it felt like home.
Rocky the Bit-less Wonder

taking a break on the island

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Five weeks later: Rocky Rocks (and stays . . . and as of today, bit-free)

Rocky spent the day at the house with us on Christmas

It hasn't been possible for me to post each riding session with Rocky, but suffice it to say, he's continued to come along nicely.  We are having much more consistency in the rides, less spookiness, and less warm-up time required.  He stands well for mounting and has progressed in every area.

Rocky has also gone from a horse that had not negotiated water to a horse that will walk across a low tide to an island and do beach riding.  He sometimes has to be "reintroduced" to crossing the water but by the end of the session I'll be letting him free-rein and he will choose to walk through water.  (bless his heart- it does strike me what an amazing horse he is as I review his progress in just a bit over a month)
A while before the kids got here, Rocky tolerated Stephen riding him well.
While six of our kids (joining Atticus for a total of 7) were visiting from the US, Freya, 11, had some time on Rocky and he tolerated it well.  My goal is to have him ready for her to ride by summer.  
Rocky got lots of TLC for Christmas.
We had a great Christmas day with Rocky!

Christmas hugs- he was VERY affectionate
Luke did some horse whispering on Christmas 
After a long Christmas day with friends, we all spent time on the beach.  Rocky also handled Hannah, 19, riding him.
Rocky continues to handle our solo rides well.  After the Ernie-experience, I'm thrilled to see that I can take him out on his own and we continue to see steady progress.
The next ride we did alone to the beach.  We are on a crest of the island.  Mount Manaia in the background.

What a beauty.  Our break on the island.  We just hung out for a while.
Freya did well with his feet.
Recently we had a tiny bout with some grass that made him hyper-crazy with Freya and me for one session, but he's on a different pasture with a nice supplement/feed and doing very well.  
He's on far left, getting acquainted with new mates.  Forgot how good these conjoined pastures were for practice sessions.
Today on his first Bitless Bridle ride.  He rocked it!!!
Our big news of the day is that our bitless bridle came in the mail and we tried it today.  He was a champ.  I chose a brand from HERE and I was thrilled with their customer service, their return policy (or swapping to an upgrade within 30 days), and their recommendation from natural horsemanship folks.  I am including three short videos taken during our approximately 40 minute ride; his first off the bit.I was extremely happy with his performance.Unfortunately, I do not have access to a round pen or arena for training and the pasture we are in is huge giving him room to monster-bolt if he so chose.He did not.(bows head in thanks)

This bridle is NOT a hackamore nor does it use any type of pain as stimuli.  The cross ties underneath are controlled by the reins and serve to encourage the head movement.  It is pain-free!
I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of turns and that he stopped on a dime.  I had generally been very light in the mouth anyway and we had gotten in sync; him intuitively knowing where I wanted to go.  Starts and ends of sessions could be a bit less smooth when he's slow to warm and anxious to quit when he sees home, but in general, no much further off than any other horse on those matters.

Here are a few videos Stephen got today.  Mind you, I was out less than 45 minutes with him.  After a five minute warm up he was golden.  There were a couple times he pawed with his foot as if he wouldn't have minded taking it off, but it was very short lived.

In this video, you can see the expanse of the pasture (and it isn't but part of it) so it is clear he could bolt at any time.  Any steering happening is purposeful and I am saying how light in the mouth he is and how pleased I am with his first-time-performance:

This next clip doesn't show much but going down a hill and me working on getting a solid stop.Overall, I felt like the stops were better than any I get with the bit.  His antsiness here is totally related to heading back and we went back to starting point and out several times and turned LOTS of circles-- again, even better performance than on the bit. (yay- really excited!):

Again, everything in this clip is purposeful and he is heading back towards "home."  Good solid stops.Great circles.  Generally would be putting up a fuss about killing time, but did a lot of it with circles and miscellaneous steering and he tolerated it well:

Yes, I know I'm lopsided in the saddle.  He was such a good boy and it was such a short trial ride, I did not want to stop and retighten/reposition; I wasn't slopping around, just on a tilt. 

Sooo, the other news is that Rocky is 100% ours.  We took the plunge and bought him the day before he turned six- New Years Day!  I can't imagine $850 for a horse as sweet as him; very pleased.  He cost much less than my first horse did thirteen years ago.Makes me sad to think of all the sweet track-retired horses that aren't taken and what happens to them!

I'm continuing to work with some of Parelli's Seven Games because it is just nice foundation-groundwork.I believe I spend close to as much time just "with" him as I do on him.  The crop is only an extension of my arm and I do not use anger or punishment.  He's never done anything to be mean and I have no problem reining him in if he gets a bit frisky. He needs minimal tying. (He's also barefoot and does great with that)

Five weeks into our relationship-- I would give the progress and quality a solid 10/10.

Go Rocky!

Rocky: the bit-less wonder