Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finally... presenting Crazy Dixie!


Crazy mare! from Funder on Vimeo.

Isn't she wonderful :D

Also, um, if anybody reading this can't get her damn horse to stand still for mounting, seriously, clicker train. Traditional pressure-release is absolutely wonderful for some stuff, but I find it really fails me when I'm trying to get, ummm, a negative behavior. Like standing still is the lack of movement. Or holding a hoof up is the lack of yanking, pawing, leaning, etc. For me personally, getting the horse to ~not~ do what it wants and stand still for something is best accomplished by c/t.

Today was my third attempt at mounting via clicker. Dixie tried to walk over to the block before I'd even gotten her bridle on - I had to inform her that I am no Stacey Westfall and she's not actually ready to be ridden bridleless. As soon as the bridle was on, she headed straight over to the block. Me looming over her near side still makes her nervous, so I just got on and off of her off side a couple times then I rode.

I still feel really awkward in the saddle. Something isn't quite right yet - I'm tense somewhere, or I'm leaning, or something. I've been thinking about it all afternoon and I still can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. I felt more relaxed, though, and that's a good thing.

I've been reading and thinking a lot about the bit, the bridle, the reins, etc. I got Horse Gaits, Balance and Movement from the library, and it's given me some stuff to think about. It's quite good and apparently it's a classic - I just got it cause it was the only "adult" horse book at my branch, but I really lucked out.

Anyway, she's been PULLING as hard as she can. I tried (last week, some time) just locking my hands and not letting her pull the reins out. That didn't work out - it made her irritable, it made my hands hurt, and it only seemed to make the problem worse. I've been reconsidering - she "should" want contact, right? But she gets mad and yanks the reins. Perhaps my hands are too hard and I'm trying too much too fast.

Today I didn't even try for on-the-bit contact. I let the reins have just a bit of slack, just to where I could squeeze my fingers and she'd feel that hand moving. Whenever she'd try to pull, I'd let her, then as she picked her head back up I'd just quietly pick the reins back up to that same amount of almost-contact. It went much much better; she only pulled a couple of times, and only when I was squeezing too hard.

The next thing I'm wondering - is the horse supposed to curl around your inside leg or move away from it? When I squeeze the reins just enough to get her to turn her head a bit, then give her a little inside leg, she turns inside. Really sharply! I can do, say, 5 meter circles but nothing larger, not without losing the bend.

Outside leg behind the girth works fine, by the way. She calmly moves her hindquarters away from behind-the-girth pressure.


  1. Dixie has nice gaits...and plenty of impulsion, too. >g<

    Your descriptions of her behavior sound to me like a very big case of Young Horse.

    She's not dumb (look how fast she learned about the mounting block) but she doesn't have much experience with ANYTHING yet...which is good because she isn't ruined by prior experiences, but it's also a challenge because everything is sooooo new.

    I appreciate your descriptions of how you are paying attention to herm, regarding mounting from the near side, etc.

    It also sounds like she's TRYING to pay attention to you, but doesn't quite know what you want, yet. Keep going with the c/t, since that works for you.

    I'm eager to see how she (and you) continue your training journey!

  2. LOL! They always crack me up with that crazy snort. I love how she kept coming to you for comfort, though. That's fantastic.

    Great job with the mounting block issue! But of course, you know I love c/t ;-)

    I'm sorry I can't help you with the other issues. I'm in the same place with Lakota now, I'm just starting to teach her leg yields, and since I don't really know what I'm doing, only going by what I've read or talked about, I'm flying by the seat of my pants myself.

  3. AareneX - thanks! I'm also beginning to realize that she's just young - I mean, she's had a lot of riding time, but before me it was all pretty bad. Then I rode her a bit, then I deliberately gave her almost a year off to get her head together and grow a little more. Now we are kind of starting over together.

    She's definitely trying to pay attention to me. She gets frustrated very easily, if I'm confusing or if she thinks I'm being dumb or overbearing. But as long as I work with her, she tries really hard to work with me.

    Michelle - the SNORT is the best! I really am quite pleasantly surprised every time she comes to me. She was so wary for so long. Such a sweet girl though.

    I just finished another batch of c/t treats. :)

  4. Oh that video was too funny with that big SNORTING! And the way she would bounce left-right-left-right as she came to the ends of the arena.

    I love how you are really asking questions and learning with your mare right now!
    Something that my sis did for us when Wa was so upset with the bit contactand inverted..was to bridge
    the reins where she may have some contact but also move into more and longer and then actually put my
    handson her withers,while Itroted
    in two point down the long side..if she pulledand yanks..it is against herself. ON the short ends post normal.

    I only have somethings my sissy has taught me to give away.
    She taught me that the outside rein is for speed and change..the inside is for direction and bend.
    The trick is to release almost as quickly as you ask..or ask in a rhythem of 3's. Prepare her ahead and be consistant.It is a lot of thinking in advance..always 5-10 meters ahead.

    I do think if you try serpentines down the long walls..without the entire circles..she may realize, not every que is a circle.Remeber to change your diagnal in the middle,then back again at wall.
    Your mare shoudl bend around your inside..but to really get her to like it you could try counter bending as well for 2 or 3 strides...you keep your bend on the circle but ask her to do counter bend(only part of the circle,a few strides)coming back to the normal bend then is so

    Then when she figures those out...quarter the arena back and forth,next time..making sure to look over your inside shoulder to almost see her dock, for your own leading upper body postion. Make sure to lighty que her for all transitions for these lane changes.

    I also thought of allowing her to have more freedom to find contact sometimes by "Yielding" the inside rein- in a smallfluid circular motion towards her head then back to normal.(three strides to accomplish)

    My problem is I need to look ahead and not look at my mare...hips rise in posting before torso,and to keep my from leaning over, I think of my shoulders being level(with a stick through them)

    Oh...have you done the chap stick test on your saddle? When she is standing put your chapstick of choise(mine is Burt's bees- pomegranite) and lay it on the saddle and see where the center of gravity is...this also could be something to address.

    Longie response maybe somwthing will strike a cord! Have fun Funder!

  5. My mare says that she can outcrazy your mare any day. I almost got some video of her having a hissy fit in the hail yesterday, but I basically suck at getting the camera to do what I want under pressure.

    I love the snorting. Nothing sounds so funny to me for some reason. Tonka is a gigantic snorter. Other horses visible? Must snort. A big bug in the paddock? Definitely snort.

    Sounds like Dixie is flexible, and she looks built that way -- five meter circles are pretty small. I always think of bending as the horse moving away from your inside leg but being contained by your outside leg.

  6. Um, did anyone see that mare's LEAD CHANGES?! Very athletic mare Funder!! AND she's a paint, AND she's pretty.

    You know I'm stealing her, right?

    I was always taught, told, and read that for reins, the inside rein controls bend. The outside rein turns the horse. Inside leg to outside hand to turn! But it doesn't really work that way with greenies.

    Maybe the bit bothers her? The one thing I've learned about bits is that there is not a one-size-fits-all. Just because a snaffle is mild doesn't mean it's the best, most comfortable bit for that horse. I always thought of it like shoes. My favorite's not your favorite. ;) If other people have different kinds (mainly with different mouth pieces), I would definitely try throwing them in her mouth for a day or two. I got my waterford bit on a whim, and Clyde gobbles that thing right up. He reminds me of your mare... wonder if she would appreciate something like that?

    With the inside leg thing, I know for moves like the shoulder-in, you want the horse to sort of curl around that inside leg. But, if you want to do a leg yield or what have you, then they have to move away from it. So. Yeah that probably doesn't answer anything. ;)

    Yay, videos! (you LUCKY LUCKY THING!!! *STEALS YOUR INDOOR*)

  7. Kacy - what wonderful suggestions! I'll try some of them tomorrow. Remember that I don't have to post with her, either she just walks fast or she racks. Well sometimes she paces, and I'll either slow her back down or two-point a hard pace.

    Preparing ahead for transitions is not my strong point. :( I don't expect her to respond the second I cue her, but I often change my mind about what we're going to do. Like... I ask her to slow and turn left, she ignores me, we continue toward the end of the arena, I realize we have more room to go to the right, so I cue right, cue right, CUE RIGHT, and she goes right so we end up doing something different. Does that make sense? I mean I don't plan ahead, but I do give her a calm series of escalating cues for whatever I decide we're going to do.

    My chapstick is Burts Bees Beeswax. I've tried the honey and the "lifeguard" stuff but not the raspberry! Sounds good though. And I mean to post pictures of my saddle on her back; maybe I'll remember tomorrow!

    dp - I misspoke. When I said "she does 5 meter turns" I did not mean nice dressage voltes. I meant when I press with my inside leg she *turns* around it in the tiniest space she can manage - not always a walk circle, sometimes it's a scramble around my leg.

    DiJ - Serious question, aren't all horses "supposed" to be able to do flying changes at liberty? I thought it's just the addition of a rider's weight and cues that makes it difficult for a horse to flying change under saddle. And you are not stealing her, because if you steal her you will have to keep her clean and that's entirely too much effort! ;)

    I might start switching bits again, but I downsized my collection when I moved. Right now I just have the 5" D-ring she's in, a solid low port curb, and a 5.5" slow twist full cheek I bought for Poppy a long time ago. I tried her in a french link once and she hated it, but there's so many factors she could've hated about it.

    And the last thing you said - about the two different responses the horse is supposed to give for inside leg pressure - that's my question exactly. How is she supposed to learn the difference between a shoulder-in and a leg yield? To her, it's just "leg pressure" plus "rein pressure," but sometimes she's guessing correctly and sometimes she's not. I don't understand the difference, so I don't understand how to teach it.

  8. Hummm. Well, I learned shoulder in against the long school wall. It makes it easier for the horse and rider to have the fixed point. And Leg Yield and half passes from the wall to the center(or a few steps into the towards the center).
    I am always reading the handiest book ever...you'd like it too...lots of pictures and descriptions."The Manual of Horsemanship" the officail manual of The Pony Club .

  9. All horses are supposed to do flying lead changes at liberty... but it doesn't mean they can, lol. I've seen very nonathletic horses switch and screw up; canter around on the wrong lead eternally; or cross-fire for five minutes. And a lot of them don't like doing so MANY like your mare did... she was like doing one-tempis! I enjoyed. :)

    Any you're totally right; my paint has four black feet and one itty bitty white spot. She's way too much for me, lol!

    In the shoulder in, you don't actually cue with the inside leg (from what I heard). You're cuing the shoulders to move, which means the rein/indirect rein. Some people put the outside leg back to 'force' the bend around the inside leg... but what's important is that the inside leg remains soft. You don't want them to bend around a stiff pole; something more like a noodle. ;)

    The leg yield, then, is done with pressure from the leg.

    Did that make ANY SENSE? lol I just got out of work. uugh.

  10. DiJ - Thank you! You actually answered my questions perfectly. Cueing with the rein then pushing her away from my leg, versus asking her to curve into my leg. Makes sense.

    I'm pleased that you like her. She looks really, uh, athletic and flexible to me, but I have no eye whatsoever for conformation and no real sense of "good horseflesh." I just think she's pretty, and I'm convinced there's a good heart and a functional brain lurking under the spooky.


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