Monday, March 19, 2012

Starting young horses

Starting our young bright stars to be!
I wish all the young horses that come to me to start jumped like this right from the beginning!  This is Saphira.  She is a coming 5yr old Trakehner mare.  We measured her today because both Katie and I are sure she has grown in the short 8 weeks she has been here.  She measures an even 16 hands and her topline has really started to puff up.  Maybe that is why she looks so much bigger than the little roly poly that was brought to my barn just two short months ago. Or maybe it is the ATTITUDE...she certainly knows she is special.
We have really enjoyed the young ones lately....we have been blessed with talented and extremely trainable projects so far this year.

This is our approach:
I always make sure their teeth are checked, floated and ready for a bit. I also want their feet to be in good shape before they start working.
We spend the first week handling them...a lot! At least 20 minutes of grooming everyday.  We use the hose, clippers, curry, wet towel, fly spry (or anything out of a spray bottle)...and make them stand in the cross ties patiently. I will put a saddle pad on and eventually a surcingle and take them out for a walk and some grazing. We spend some time getting to know the wash rack and the arena.
Next I channel my inner horse whisperer and we play "rope halter with words".  I make sure they understand whoa and moving away, backing up, and coming forward to me. We walk and when I stop they stop. I teach them to go in a small circle (prep work for proper lunging).  It is your typical natural horsemanship stuff.  This step usually only takes 2 or 3 days. (We go back to it whenever we need to though!)
Now we start with the lunging. This step is very important and we want it to go well from the start (so I leave my phone in the barn).  I tack them up with a pad and surcingle and the lunging cavasson (no bit or bridle yet).  If everything goes well to the left at the walk and trot we switch directions (often times it is a whole new task going the other way!) If this day is uneventful I am ecstatic! I always try to introduce something and give it a few days to sink in before I up the ante with a new challenge.
Now we will add a bridle! We still wear the lunging cavesson though and the lunge line is not attached to the bit. After a week with our new fancy big boy/girl  bridle on it is time to add the sliding reins (not side reins...I have very little use for those).  Still the lunge line remains attached to the lunging cavesson rings.
By now we have the words... walk, trot and canter down. We have also built up enough strength to lunge 20 minutes each way with about 10 minutes of that at the trot, 5 at the canter and 5 at the walk.  We have added a saddle and at the end of the lunging time I will hunt down one of working students to practice their lead line etiquette.  I am always amazed how uneventful that first time up in the saddle usually is (at least the way we do it!)
Now we add a little variety....we introduce long lining for steering and on another day we pony them off of one of my other babysitter types to introduce trotting over poles, trail riding, ditches, banks, water.  We incorporate small jumping obstacles right from the beginning. Once the youngster ponys well and is attached to the babysitter, I put a brave soul on the youngster while I ride the pony horse.  We do this for a few days and then we switch horses and cut the pony rope!  At first I am happy if they walk around the ring alone.  On the second day I usually find that trotting is fine too.

Within another week we usually are walk, trot and cantering around the ring with a fair amount of steering and control.  It seems like the whole thing takes a long time but this process usually goes quickly if you are consistent.

Just look at that fancy horse in the picture......not bad for 8 weeks! The owners are planning to sell her. Hopefully we will have a chance to get a few blue ribbons first!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jedi getting fit

Today was a conditioning day. Jedi is such a trooper. Because he is so LARGE, I am careful about getting him fit enough and keeping him sound in the process.  Doesn't do me any good to have the most talented, fancy horse at the show if he isn't sound!

One of the things I have found to really step up his fitness without hard mileage is the Hydro Horse at Circle Oak Equine in Petaluma.  I can go once a week and I am amazed the difference it really makes! He seems to have an increased range of motion and it builds both his strength and his cardio! Doing that along with our gallops at the beach and some hill work and Jedi feels amazing! Getting ready for that CIC** at the end of the month. So if we don't quite make the Olympic three day team he will be primed for the swim team! Watch out Michael Phelps!