Monday, June 30, 2008

Third Gear

Yes, this was how I spent part of my time with My Boy last Friday. I told my sister that one of these times while I was hand grazing my horse, I was going to sit out and read a book. But it was easier said then done. I had a hard time concentrating on reading. I'd rather be watching my horse graze!

However, the actual ride before this was not as peaceful. I started off by grooming My Boy in his pasture. He has a hitching post there. This area where you see him standing? A month ago, it was all mud. It is so nice that it has finally dried out. But now it's getting dusty. Mud or dust? Hard to believe, but I'll take dust any day!

I saddled My Boy and took him up to the arena. I warmed him up by walking and jogging on the longe line, circling him left and right, playing some of the Parelli games. We side passed over the log from the ground, etc. Then I donned my helmet and mounted up. I always wear my helmet when I am riding alone.

I walked and jogged, more side passing, backing through a chute of poles, practicing some trail obstacles....My Boy was doing fairly well considering the heat. Then, I got a wild hair up my Pony Girl tootie-ta. I decided to lope.

A little background here....I have not loped my horse since last fall, due to an arena that was wet and slippery most of the winter. He has loped a fair amount on the longe line.

Loping is not my forte. I always feel like a flapping fool when I lope. I tend to lean forward and raise my tootie-ta out of the saddle, and when I sit it back down My Boy stops (which is how he was trained.) He is also a bit on the lazy side at times, so it can be a battle to keep him loping.

I normally do not choose to lope My Boy alone, just in case something happens. But Friday, I literally thought it in my head, gave him a squeeze, and he went right into the gait! I was pleasantly shocked. And then whooooaaa, he stopped 25 feet down the rail, on his own. I gathered him up and asked him again. And we struggled to keep going. He fought me once and it felt like he crow hopped a little, which is highly unusual for this horse. I got him going again, circling the arena once until it was my decision for him to stop. That was progress. I should have ended there but I tried it one more time and he crow hopped more obviously this time. Goodness! This was not My Boy at all! It was obvious to me that he wasn't trying to dislodge me while I was on him. He could have easily done that with more than a crow hop. But I was not comfortable with this behavior and did not know why he was doing it. Being alone without anyone to watch or help me, I did not want to continue this mystery from my horse's back. I dismounted and put him on the longe line again. I loped him both directions (I had not done this in the warm-up. Lesson learned.) You know what? He was WORSE on the longe line! He had his little head to his knees and was just hopping along the whole way around. After a few circles, he'd raise and carry his head normally. He was not full-on bucking. It was like the hopping you might see a young colt do when wearing a saddle for the first time.

After working him well both ways, I got back on and we just walked and jogged. I did not press the lope issue again. He did not seemed bothered at the walk, jog, trot, or backing up.

As I hosed him off, I began analyzing why this happened, and I thought of two possibilities. My mom recently gave me a saddle pad that did not work for her horse and saddle. It made her saddle fit incorrectly, it was too tippy. It is a nice pad, wool top, with a memory foam lining. However, it is a contour fit style and the lining doesn't go all the way across the top of the horse's back. It has two pads of foam on either side. Here is a picture of the inside:

My sister noticed a couple of weeks ago that when I was leading My Boy in front of her, that this pad forces my saddle up off of his back and it bounces there kind of oddly. And when I lunged him with the saddle on that particular day, he hopped up on all fours once then reared straight up, something I have never seen him do. I thought he was just full of it, because he didn't do it again.

I began to wonder if this pad was causing the saddle to fit incorrectly, perhaps pushing the saddle down on his withers? Or, it caused the saddle to rise and hit his back uncomfortably, even with my weight in it (all 105 lbs of me.) My Boy can be very quivery and sensitive about how things feel on his body.

Tonight, once it cooled down, I brought him out and saddled him with the old fleece-lined pad. And when I longed him, he did the same hopping behavior a bit at the lope when going to the left. He was better going to the right. I also rode him, and when I loped him short distances both directions, he seemed to be okay. My sister watched and said he did not hop, but he did shake his head and swish his tail more going to the left. I also think that head shaking can be a sign of irritation or pain. So I did not push it.

Since the saddle pad may not be the reason, my second theory is that his back or hips are out of whack and he really feels this at the lope. I was overdue in my wish for making a chiropractic appointment for him, so I now have one the second week in July. He is also out of shape, in regards to using his loping muscles. I try to lope him out on the longe line as much as I can in the rainy season, but not when I felt the footing was too slippery.

It is always an adventure with horses. It just shows that you think you have no issues and then your horses surprises you with a behavior you have never experienced before. I think the important thing, at least for me, is to weed out physical reasons for misbehavior first. If there is not a physical or equipment disturbance and My Boy is just being a balky pill, then we'll work on it from there.

As for the humgo to-do list, I have to admit, we actually got quite a bit done today. I'll catch you up on all of the adventures (including the pool we put in the backyard) tomorrow.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lots to Do

I am off to the Painted Creek for a few days to spend some quality time with My Boy. My sister and I have a gazillion things we want to do. Let me tell you some of my plans so that you can hold me accountable for getting them done.

1. Wash and condition My Boy's tail.

2. Get a new bag of shavings for My Boy's shed.

3. Get pictures of the tack and feed area for Twinville's barn and tack room photo tour idea.

4. Look for a new saddle pad for My Boy at the local tack shop (more on that soon.)

5. Switch my snaffle bit onto a different headstall.

6. Get a plastic bin to haul supplies in for our horse guest ranch trip in August, and start organizing it.

7. Rehearse our guest ranch opening ceremony routine, using the song I have chosen for to represent me and My Boy.

8. Take My Boy for a ride out of the arena and off of the property.

9. Watch a showjumping competition my sister DVR'd the other day.

10. Visit my hay provider and check the current prices so I can comparison shop (they have not updated their phone message, I know it is an old recording because I am pretty sure the price of hay has not gone down!)

11. Head over to check out the new co-op remodel and see if they have the clips we need for the hay bags.

12. Visit the other farm store to pick up My Boy's winter turnout and summer rain sheet, which I took in for a cleaning last week.

13. If it stays warm, wash the winter grime out my saddle pads, halters, and splint boots, and lay them out to dry.

14. Look through catalogs and determine where to order the hay bag, horn bag, and shipping boots I need for my trip next month.

Goodness, that sounds like way too much to do. Maybe I should just stay home?!

I rode My Boy on Friday and that turned out to be a little more interesting than I planned. I will share that story tomorrow.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cousin H's First Ride

While I was visiting my parents last weekend, I went to the barn with my mom to see her gelding Dusty. My mom's boy is happy and looking good. At his previous barn, he was always itchy due to damp saltwater air and lots of mosquitoes and gnats, so he had rubbed out half of his mane. I finally cut it short and evened it out last fall, and now it's grown out nice again.

My mom was worried that Dusty had lost some weight. I thought he looked perfect. I think my mom is a good horsey mommy and a worrywart. Now I know where I get it from!

My mom's riding lessons are progressing well and I could tell a huge difference in her confidence. She was trotting figure eights and posting on the diagonal. Wow! She really likes her instructor, who makes her work, but has a great sense of humor and uses gentle prodding.

My second Cousin H came along to see Dusty, too. She is a little timid around horses, but wanted to ride. She was all decked out in her bling horsey shirt and pink cowgirl hat.

My mom free lunged Dusty. After he galloped and bucked around the indoor arena, she walked him around to cool him out. He follows her like a puppy. Dusty is like a big copper colored Golden Retriever. I think he has an identity crisis.

Then she saddled him up for Cousin H to ride.

Cousin H is a little excited about her ride. Can you tell?

There she goes! She couldn't stop grinning.

I suppose before too long, Cousin H will be wanting a pony of her own!

Cousin H, there is always room for more Pony Girls in the world!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wide Open Spaces

Last weekend while visiting my parents, my dad decided that we would go into town to the farmers market so he could get some fresh produce. On the way, my dad said something about the market being open on Saturday. I said uh, dad, it's Friday! Oops. My dad thought it was Saturday. I don't blame him, he is retired so it must be more challenging to remember what day it is when you don't have a work week or weekends. I know that feeling now I am on my summer schedule. I often have no idea what day it is, either!

Since the farmer's market was in the same vicinity, my dad drove us up to see my Nana's grave site (my father's mother.) I have not been there since we buried her when I was a senior in high school. The cemetery is very nice. But the tree she is buried under, with her mother and her step dad, is nothing short of amazing.

So huge that my dad is holding it up. I kid, I kid! My papa has bad knees so the tree was probably holding him up.

Wow, what a resting place. It was special to visit it. My Nana was a writer and always encouraged me to write.
It's massive, almost deformed trunk was caused by many lightening strikes.
My parents are now living in the same town they grew up in. They've come full-circle. After we left the cemetery, my dad drove me the "old way" back to their house instead of taking the freeway. It was the way he and his buddies used to race muscle cars when they were teens. Uh-oh. Dad is divulging secrets from his childhood! It's okay. I already know most of them.

I know many of you live on ranches and farms that look like many of these properties, so this is probably typical, everyday scenery to you. Lucky ducks! But I loved this drive and of course I had to start taking pictures. I am sure my dad thinks I am a fruitcake for always having my camera. He is probably regretting that he and my mom got me that digital camera for Christmas. But he was kind enough to slow down or stop on parts of the road so that I could zoom and take a shot. If any of you saw a crazy Pony Girl hanging out the window of a red truck last Friday, taking pictures of your barn or pasture, I am sorry. Take it as a compliment.
Many of the following landscapes were severely flooded last fall after heavy rains. It has made them lush with green this spring. I have to tell you about my obsession for wide open spaces. Goodness I'm sorry, now that song by the Dixie Chicks will be stuck in your head all day. But really, lately I have been craving endless pastures of waving grasses, dotted with creeks and trees, filled with chirping crickets and little green frogs and.....well, let's skip the snakes and spiders, it's killing my imagery here. I can just imagine my future herds of horses and cattle grazing out there in all of that lushness. Lately, I have not been able to look at land like this without wanting to throw myself out there and bury myself in under the shade of one of those trees with a good book and my horse grazing nearby. Think I'm getting tired of the city? Hmmm.....
Love these rolls of hay. And the little line of trees standing all by their lonesome in the back.

If My Boy was turned out here, I'd never catch him again. Ever. Goodbye, my silly spotted pill.

I saw a lot of cows. And sheep. And alpacas. And even some buffalo. Very little horses along this route, though. I am guessing the fields might be too wet in the winter for horses.

And some really neat old buildings and barns. I did not get photos of them all because they were on my dad's side of the truck and goodness, it would have been a little absurd to ask him to stop and get out of the truck for a picture. Wait, wouldn't it? Seriously, I need to know!

This could be your barn?

This red barn shop was very interestingly placed. It was right off of a side road. And in the middle of a field, with no roads leading to it from any side. It looked as if it had been dropped down into the middle of the grass from the mother ship. Maybe it was some kind of undercover alien meeting place. Okay Pony Girl, you've been eating too many Bottle Caps! More likely, somebody built it and then left it. I wondered if there was anything inside? Why do I always wonder things like this?

Sad that it is apparently not being used. Maybe the mother ship could drop it down at my sister's place. They could use a barn like that at the Painted Creek!

This brick silo was very unique. It was in the middle of a pasture. Standing alone, too. We saw another one of these on our drive to the trail challenge, as well. I wonder what year these were built? They both had the white brick pattern at the top. If you know any interesting brick silo history to share, please enlighten us.

This photo shows acreage my family is eyeing for a future ranch. It would be a family compound, of sorts. They have been out to look at it several times. The concept is mostly in the imagination stage right now. But it is possible that within a year or two, it will be a reality. Then maybe, just maybe, this Pony Girl city dweller will live among the fields.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How the Appy Became My Boy, Part III

About a month ago, my sister's significant other stopped by the grooming area to say hi. I had finished working My Boy and I was giving him a brush down. While we were chatting, My Boy inappropriately nudged my head. I knew he was only saying, no time to chit-chat, it's dinner time. The boyfriend commented on how I was definitely My Boy's favorite one.

When I started leasing My Boy, his previous owner said this about him: he's kind of a one-person horse. What does this mean? Is there even such a thing? Experience has taught me that not all people click. Perhaps this is due to different backgrounds, personalities, or just different chemistry. I believe that animals are intelligent. They can sense how you feel around them. I have witnessed this frequently with the dogs and cats in my life. What about horses? I think we all want to feel that our horse loves us. I know, I know, sappy, sappy, using the word love and all. I reflected on my year and a half-long experience with My Boy. And I do feel pretty special and convinced that I am the one for him. And that he is the one for me. Hmmm. Is he my horsey soul mate?

It wasn't that way from day one. Like most relationships, we had to lay that foundation and build on it. Like meeting your significant other: the initial meeting is the easy part. The attraction is there. Then the hard work begins to maintain the relationship and continue growing together. All of you married folks are nodding your heads. When I first started leasing and riding My Boy, he had my number. My horsemanship skills were rusty and My Boy took advantage of that. Besides, he didn't know me from any other person in the barn. And he was being ridden by various people. We spent a lot of time backing up, standing in one place, all of the stubborn you can't make me do it horse behaviors. Nothing dangerous. He just figured he was smarter than me.

As I built my confidence and got back into the swing of working around and riding horses, we began to make progress. It was like he finally said, oh alright Pony Girl, I get it. You ARE going to make me do it. But once I took him over as a care lease, and eventually purchased him, I began to see some pretty significant changes. For one, nobody has been able to catch him without chasing him around the pasture first. For me, he'll either stand where he is or let me walk up and get him. Or, he comes to the gate; which he has been doing more frequently, and pushes his nose into the halter. He looks at me differently than he does other people. When I leave him tied at the grooming area to fetch something from the garage, he always watches for me to come back, and sometimes nickers softly as I walk back towards him.

My Boy is more "affectionate" with me, in appropriate ways that horses show affection. Now, let me clarify that My Boy is not always an affectionate horse. He is not, as they say, "in your pocket." He usually prefers to be 5 miles from any one's pocket. I have often called him "indifferent" or jokingly, "cranky." He's a little introverted. He kind of minds his own business. But I see precious moments in him, moments of contentment or happiness, and I know I have made a difference. I have noticed these changes increase as I approach my year and a half anniversary of spending time with this horse. He has become noticeably more friendly and approachable over time.

In his past, I'm not sure that My Boy was doted on or really cared about in the way that I do. He was a show horse, a working horse. Maybe it was all work and no play? Maybe there wasn't a lot of time to enjoy being a horse and having positive relationships with a human. Yes, still mindful of respecting the space and doing what you are told, but done with feelings. The feeling I care about him, that I am emotionally involved with him, that I want us to be partners. I think he can tell that difference and has responded to it. The cynics will say horses are just prey animals, reacting on their flight or flight instincts.....yes, I agree with all of that, too. But I believe there is more. My Boy and I are establishing a connection, of what kind or how to label it, I do not know. It's a journey we will continue to take, and it is only just beginning.

Now, why can't finding my cowboy soul mate go this smoothly?

My next mission is to do some research into My Boy's past. I have basic information regarding his breeding, but I also have one little tidbit in my hot little hands: the name and phone number of one of his long-ago previous owners (the man that owned him before the last two women that owned him, goodness, does that make sense?) I plan to place a call to him this week. I am keeping my fingers crossed that he calls me back, and that he is willing to speak and share some history about my horse with me. Stay tuned for a history lesson on My Boy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Tarp Boy

Something really strange happened with My Boy yesterday. I free longed him then saddled and rode him. After the inspiring trail challenge event I watched on Sunday, I played and worked him over some of the obstacles we'd set up in the arena to desensitize our horses.

Last week when I was working on groundwork, I had led My Boy over the tarp. He handled it well, although he seemed to want to stop at the edge of or on top of the tarp. I did not think anything of it until yesterday, where this time, I approached the tarp while on his back.

Now I am kind of freaking out. Because I noticed as I was riding, the strangest, twilight-zone kind of thing. My Boy seemed to be gravitating towards that tarp. It was like a huge magnetic pull, at times, it was all I could do to get him to stick on the rail and not eventually head for that tarp. In fact, to test this theory, I dropped my reins a few times and he walked right to the tarp, put his front hooves on it, and stopped. Or he'd walk into the middle of it and just stand there. I rode around the arena at various speeds and directions, and he did it every time. This did not appear to be a random behavior. What possible motive could my horse have for wanting to walk and stop on that tarp? I promise, it was not covered in carrots and apples.

My only logical reasoning is that somewhere in his training, someone had trained him to do this. But why? Was it a form of ground tying? Was he once a famous movie horse and trained to go to a tarp "mark?" Oohhh, I like that last idea, but highly unlikely. It boggles my little Pony Girl mind. Actually, I was laughing the whole time he was doing this because it just added to the character of this silly pill of a horse I have. And, it is amazing that after riding him for a year and a half, I would just now discover something so unusual about him. Here are two short video clips my sister took:

Video Two:

Do you have any ideas? Maybe, just maybe, this question will be answered soon. Stay tuned to the end of tomorrow's post to find out why!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Trail Challenge

On Saturday, my dad and I chose to go to the Trail Challenge instead of the rodeo. The rodeo main event was in the evening, when we already had other plans. It would have been nice to go out and support the slack runs during the day, but the trail challenge sounded intriguing and I know I will have a chance to attend rodeos later this summer with my sister and her boyfriend. Who will be more appropriate cowboy hunting company, anyway.

The trail challenge was at a horse and riders club. The property housed a large arena and a nice clubhouse complete with fireplace, kitchen, and restrooms. By the time we got there (ahem- yes, we got lost) they were on a lunch break and frying up some burgers in the clubhouse kitchen. So we had a burger. They announced that after lunch, contestants would be running through the trail course again, but in reverse order and it would be timed.

Horses on the lunch break. The weather was muggy and everyone was mellow.

The course was posted on the clubhouse door so I took a look. It was a fairly typical trail course. When you first came in, you had to start along the rail and go through this hanging curtain of plastic flags. Which is in the background of this picture and looked pretty scary. I'm not sure My Boy would walk through that.

Next, you rode along the outside of the arena rail. I did not get any pictures of this area, sorry. I thought I took more pictures, but I must have been taking them in my head. There was a platform you had to ride onto and do a 360 turn, a gravel/dirt mound to ride up and over, a ditch with water to walk through. Then you had to trot a figure eight between two trees, and ride up to the arena gate, open it, and ride through. Once you were back inside the arena, you had to go over four large tree logs, then cross a teeter-totter platform. Then, you rode through these branches.

Next, you had to go to the poles arranged in an "L" shape and back through them. Oh goodness, this proved to be a challenge for a lot of the riders. Once through, you loped a circle to the left, then stopped at another log, side passed over, and then did a turn on the forehand. Let's see....oh yes, then you took a slicker off of the pole, put it on, rode to the next pole, and took it off. Then, a raised footbridge. And last, the hay feeder. Or whatever it is called, it is the feeder round bales of hay go in. It was tilted on it's side like this:

And the horses either walked, loped (oh Nelly, I kept my fingers crossed that those rider's kept their heads down) or refused to go through at all. The whole time I watched this event, I kept thinking of what a fun challenge it would be to take My Boy through the course and see how he did. This picture make it look like Rosie and I were the only spectators at the event, but there were several sets of bleachers and since we had a dog, we chose the furthest one out.

Hmmm.....whats that under the bleachers?
A very smart dog lying in the cool grass.

Here are some of the competitors waiting for their round. The little black Arab in the front did very well for the two younger girls who competed on him.

This mule was very cool. I liked his color and stocky build. I wanted the long ear to clean up the competition. He did not do that, but, he did pretty well.
I heard the trail challenge organizer telling someone else that he was a bit disappointed in the turnout. They only had around a dozen competitors. My guess is that several of these were members of the horse and riders club, as most of them seemed to know each other fairly well.
There seems to be an increase in these kinds of competitions lately. Also "big" right now is the extreme cowboy race. If you have ever watched Craig Cameron's show on the RFD channel, you know what I mean. But I wonder how a horse's experience at riding through and over obstacles on real trails transfers to the trail obstacles in an arena? You know, I think this trail competition thing could be something I would really enjoy doing on My Boy. Maybe a trail challenge is in our future?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Congrats, Cousin T

Cousin T and her neice, Coda.

My Aunt and Uncle hosted a lovely brunch this morning for my Cousin T and her husband. They secretly got married at the courthouse this past January (after 12 years of dating), but we wanted to get the family together to help them celebrate.

Hopefully Cousin T will not mind if I share her pictures on my blog. Okay, I will go ask her for permission. She said yes! She is one of my first cousins. I am the oldest. She followed in my footsteps. We both have psychology degrees so we like to analyze all of our family members. Oh goodness, I am just kidding! Kind of. Anyway, I will also share that she is my mother's identical twin sister's (my aunt's) daughter. Got that? I wish more of these gorgeous genes had come my way!

Congratulations on your marriage Cousin T, it was special to celebrate with you. I am excited that you have taken an interest in horseback riding. And, that your husband likes riding, too. Well, I suppose a mountain bike is his ride of choice, but don't worry, we'll get him on a horse this summer!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Orren Mixer

Last week when I was looking through my sister's June issue of The Paint Horse Journal I read that painter Orren Mixer passed away on April 29th at the age of 87. I had not heard this and was saddened by the news. I remember Orren's work as a young pony-tailed horse crazy kid. I would write every breed association and ask them to send me brochures and information. They sent me a nice manila envelope padded with brochures, registration and membership forms, and breeder names. And almost every one of them featured a small print of the breed standard by Orren Mixer. Which quickly went on my wall. Mixer was commissioned by many associations to paint a horse that represented the ideal standard for many breeds, including Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Paints, Palominos, Buckskins, Pintos, and P.O.A's.

I love the Appaloosa in Orren's above painting because it depicts one of my favorite Appaloosa coat colors and patterns, and, reminds me a little of photos of My Boy when he was a yearling. He was a shiny copper sorrel with a blanket and spots. Now, he roans out, especially in the summer. One of the joys of owning an Appaloosa is watching their color change as they age.
Here is a more detailed obituary from the A.Q.H.A, as well as another link from Western Horseman magazine. I always thought he looked like such a friendly cowboy, too.
We went to the trail challenge today. I will have some photos and insight to share when I get back into town and at my own computer next week!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Parelli Progress

I am officially on summer break! I got to go see My Boy today during normal hours. Meaning, I did not have to sit in commute traffic after work. That should help my gas bill. When I got out of the car at the Painted Creek and walked around to the back side of the house, I called and whistled for My Boy. Guess what he did? He came right down to the gate! Oh sure, maybe he thought it was feeding time. But he has been doing this more often the past few weeks. I rarely have to go get him now. I have heard many Parelli students say that as they begin using this approach of natural horsemanship with their horses, they start meeting them at the gate. Coincidence?

When we first got up to the arena, My Boy was a little concerned about this monster in the trees.
It was only the neighbor's sorrel gelding grazing in the backside of his pasture, which he rarely does.

If that wasn't enough of a distraction, Bambi had to wander by the arena for a little grass, as well. Goodness, it's like the enchanted forest around here.

I have been working with My Boy on the Parelli games since I attended the Parelli event last month. I have to tell you that I am very impressed with how my horse is picking up the games and skills. Hmmm....I am wondering if his little spotted hiney hasn't had some work with this before? I know that his past two owners probably wouldn't have touched Parelli games with a 100 ft. carrot stick, so it hasn't been recently. Or maybe my horse is just a smart boy and I know what I am doing. Hey, it could happen!

I can tell that he has had a lot of round pen work. I started with the circling game as a warm-up. He does a slow jog around me.
After he was warmed up, I took him off of the line and free lounged him. He used the whole arena a little bit at first, jumping and bucking and doing natural rollbacks. At one point he did a floaty little trot with his tail in the air.

It was muggy out. In no time he was puffing and pretty warm, and starting to settle down.
As I was cooling him out, we worked on sidepassing over the log, from the ground. It is a different experience when you aren't in the saddle using your leg and rein cues. It took several tries to get down the right body language and signals. But we were doing very well by the end.

I really enjoy the ground work aspect of the Parelli games. Frankly, there are a lot of days I do not feel like riding. My Boy is a 14 year old, professionally trained western pleasure and reining horse. Now you may not guess this by watching me ride him. He is partly rusty and I am partly unskilled in getting him to perform these maneuvers. But since he is no longer a show horse, these things are not important to me, at least not at his prior level of performance. Yes, I want him to respond to my legs, pressure on the reins, back up, sidepass, turn on the forehand, and whoa (he is best at whoa, oh Nelly!) Those are important to any riding horse, in the arena or on the trail.

Groundwork has become a new challenge because I am possibly teaching my horse some things he does not know. And if he learns it then guess what? Pony Girl has taught it to him! It is different than just implementing something he already knows. That is quite a sense of accomplishment for this back-in-the-saddle cowgirl.

The Parelli groundwork is also helping to get My Boy to look at and respond to me in ways he does not from the saddle. You have to use different tools and approaches to get the horse to move the way you want him to, whether it be sideways, backwards, or forwards. I believe if you can get your horse to respond and move on the ground in similar ways that you do from the saddle, that is when you have an overall well-trained horse. I have had to experiment with different forms of "pressure." I use the rope line, I use the carrot stick, and sometimes, I even just use my hands and walk towards him. I hold them up and flick my fingers and use my energy to just tell him to back up. It's like I am sending out a signal. I will have someone video tape it some time. It has been fascinating to see how My Boy responds. He is very respectful of my space. Somewhere along the line, that was communicated to him and I am thankful his trainer valued this. Whether you are interested specifically in Parelli techniques or not, I think a lot can be learned about just observing horse behavior and experimenting with different kinds of pressure. It is all about keeping those hooves moving and the mind thinking. And watch for your horse's smacking, licking lips. That is My Boy's signal that he "gets it" and is relaxed!

I am heading out of town tomorrow, to visit my parents. On Sunday, we have a wedding brunch for my cousin. And since my mom is working on Saturday, my dad suggested that he and I attend one of two different local horsey events. One is a trail riding challenge. The other is a Professional Rodeo Association benefit rodeo, complete with calf roping and bull-riding. I am torn between the two. Let's see....more cowboys at the Rodeo....should be an obvious choice. What do you think?
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