Tuesday, March 31, 2009

She does *everything*

Oh wow, I'm way behind. Way, way behind.

I'm still riding Champ, every other day. Not much new there - he's gaining weight, slowly but steadily, and losing hair, slowly but steadily. Much to his chagrin I've switched him over to Dixie's bridle (with the d-ring snaffle, instead of his unbroken low port curb) and we are working on contact. It's good practice for me. My hands are steadily improving. So much, in fact, that I am getting baby callouses on the tops of my index fingers, where the reins sit. Not big "I have hard hands and need gloves" callouses, but very delicate callouses from holding the reins correctly for a couple weeks straight.

I've ridden Dixie three times this week. On Monday the BO saw me riding and offered some tips on getting her on the bit. She coached me through a couple circles til I felt the bend - yay! I think I must take at least a lesson a month, to keep in mind what I need to work on. Anyway then she got on Dixie and worked her in a couple more circles... and Dixie trotted for her. It was cool - a very flat extended trot - but WEIRD! I've never had her offer to trot under saddle with me. It's official; I've now seen every major gait possible from her except a running walk. Sigh - I know a good true RW is hard to get, and I know we'll get there one day, but it's kind of discouraging. Like if my racking horse wouldn't rack, or my MFT wouldn't foxtrot.

Tuesday I rode Champ, then the vet came and gave everybody spring shots. I figured they might feel stiff and/or icky Wednesday, so I stayed home.

Thursday was WARM! Finally hit the magic 70*F, so I wanted to ride Dixie then bathe her. Our ride was... very interesting. I was all prepared to not let her yank the reins, but she... didn't. At all. She was completely calm and laid back. She didn't object to contact at all. She didn't freak out, hollow her back, and try to bolt even ONCE. We did some very calm peaceful walk work, then some hand grazing, then a bath.

Her life with me is an exciting mix of fun and horrible. She's coming around to being groomed, all over, every day - that's moving from "horrible" to "almost pleasant," I believe. Then I ride her, which is usually exciting and also becoming less "horrible." Sometimes I hand graze her or clicker train her, which is full on "fun." But then! Then! I bathed her. Truly horrible.

I am pretty sure she's never had a real bath before. She's been hosed down, but I don't think she's ever had a warm water and shampoo bath in a shower stall before. She was not thrilled but put up with it pretty well. I broke my own rule about "no magical horse products" and used Expensive Magical White Horse Shampoo... which worked. She's noticeably more sparkly. Her mane and tail are less dirty but sadly nowhere near white. No pictures til she's cleaner!

Anyway, I wondered if the unusual calmness was a one-off so I rode her again today. She gave me a nice rack at the beginning, then some good walk work with almost no fighting the bit, then a little pacing, then some more nice calm walk work. I let her walk around on a loose rein for a bit, and she walked over to the corner where the jumps and cavalletti are stored. On her own! She very carefully investigated, giving the hairy eyeball to the wood and sniffing at it like a huge dog. When she was satisfied that the jumps were safe, we walked around a bit more and called it a day.

I coaxed her back into the wash stall. Much snorting and eye rolling but she came right in when she realized I was serious. It's entirely too early for me to actually SAY this... but I suspect maybe she's starting to trust me. MAYYYBE.


  1. I know next to nothing about gaited horses. But I believe I've been told that they need to invert in order to gait, so encouraging them to round up and engage will not allow them to gait, hence the trot.

    Lakota is 25% TWH, and she has/had a tendency to invert, and when she is stressed under saddle she does some kind of gait, I don't know what it is, but it is FAST, she has a gigantic head-bob, and my hips go forward/back like so fast it gives me stitches in my side!

    I've been ecouraging her to round and relax though, just because the inversion = stress to her.

    Not sure if any of that helps at all, prolly not, lol

  2. Not sure what Michelle means by invert, hollow back???, I wish I could get you a video of my MFT, he's the only one I could give you examples of where their head is to what their feet are doing comparison. He can run walk, foxtrot and pace. I only want him to do the foxtrot, but when he gets annoyed head goes up and we hit a pace and run walk and skips in between. Once they relax, like it sounds like she's getting to, it gets easier. Sometimes feet angles are an issue. Not saying she has to have certain angles to gait, it does make it easier on them and not every horse needs a low angled trim. I have two that are fairly average trim and my old man that requires a higher angle in the rear. Just a thought. Different angles get a different gait.

    Both you and her sound like your getting along ok, just trying to figure out what works for her. Find out how your BO rode her. Did she give constant contact with mouth and a good solid squeeze with her legs. Just ask

  3. We love the simple D-ring snaffle for our younger horses. Ours have copper bits, which seem to work extra well for encouraging acceptance.

    Good luck with your gaited horse!

    The Mane Point


  4. How long have you had Dixie again? In my experience with Raven I would say that it takes about a year to gain the trust of a crazy mare. Tonight I was standing behind her with my chin on her rump, whumping her hips with my hands. Her ears went half back with every whymp, but she just stood there. I would have been seived throught the wire fence for that a year ago.

  5. Nice! Very nice to hear about the progress. :)

  6. So this is how I understand it... and I think Michelle and foxtrotter are agreeing with me... if she's too round she'll trot. But if she's too hollow/stiff she'll pace. Somewhere in the middle I can encourage her into a RW instead of her preferred rack. I think.

    I really suspect the pace is coming out because she's being worked more under saddle. I've been shamefully hit or miss in riding her ever since I got her - at first I had too many horses, then when I got down to two riding horses the weather would keep me from riding her enough. Now we have an indoor and even if she spooks and bolts she won't slip and kill us both in the mud, so she's actually getting ridden four days a week.

    I'm trying to leg her up really slowly and consistently. She could, if I insisted, rack for much longer, but she'd be sore as the dickens for a couple days afterward.

    Linda - thank you! I'll check out your blog :)

    dp, I got her in December of '07, so it's been over a year. It's ok though; she's pretty worthwhile. And she's definitely coming along.

    Sara - thanks XD

  7. Oh, her feet! They're fairly long right now. And her angles are weird anyway, from the pads before I got her. The barn farrier is coming next week and I'm going to let him work on them. If he makes her sore or I don't click with the farrier, I'll go back to doing it myself.

    I really ought to take some pics of her feet, for reference if for no other reason.

  8. Here's Leeandra's thoughts on teaching gaits from her website's section on training:

    "I use dressage techniques for gaited horses. For the pace-y horse (the best gaiters!) I teach them to give to the bit, bend at the poll, round their backs, respond to weight commands, and then use our 1/3 mile long driveway as a sounding board to perfect their gaits. They are taught the proper step sequence using weight commands and half-halting to put their weight back on their hindquarters, which interrupts their gait and then I lift the forehand and send them forward from their hind so they fall into the correct 1-2-3-4 gait. For trot-y horses, I actually break them OUT of their frame (blasphemy, I know), get them to hollow their backs (Owwwww!!) and get them to step their hinds underneath themselves. Once I train their muscle memory to the 1-2-3-4 step sequence, I can usually put them back into a healthy frame, but that takes time and muscle development first else they will fall back into their trot-y ways."

    Thought you might be interested.

    Good luck on the new farrier. Have you taken Dawn up on her offer, out of curiosity?

  9. She had show pads or pads to keep proper angle because of poor feet? I finally just got my old man out of pads on the hinds after almost 2 years of building his feet back up. All it takes is one farrier to screw them up, make them lame and for me to have to work at getting him back to normal for almost two years. I don't think you ever want them to hollow out there back, but thats just me. you can do the same thing with out all that with head placement and collection. What exactly is dixie as far as gait wise. And what do you want her to do? Are you going to show her? if not do you just want her to runwalk for comfort and trail? One of my MFT likes to runwalk more than foxtrot, he'll never be shown so that's what we do.

  10. I really meant what breed is she? I really do know how to talk.


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