April already and Spirit has been with us for 10 weeks now. His mane and tail are growing out and getting longer and he has really settled into our herd beautifully. His training has been coming along and he remembers it all when I’m often away teaching for me to come back and get back into it all without a hiccup which is great news.
Local Equine Osteo ‘Emily Cuthill’ came by to give Spirit a check over today. I wanted to make sure he was ready to be ridden more and giving him a therapy session really helped. He was pretty good but some mild stiffness in his shoulders, sacrum, sacralilliac and diaphragm was worked on and sorted so that I have no worries about getting on with the ridden work now.
Today I decided to put the techniques Spirit and I have already learned to a purpose with some ‘game challenges’ with Mark and Stormy. It’s a lot of fun and helps us start to have longer conversations around the obstacles we use.
Its lovely having Stormy showing Spirit how to do things, it was like he was showing off how clever he is… It also gives Spirit confidence to try everything.
We also practised squaring up and siding to the mounting block which went very well 🙂
Was away for a week teaching and was worried that Spirit and my relationship was going to suffer but as often happens the break was ok, he had time to rest and think and came into today’s session happy, relaxed and ready to play 🙂
I decided to do some Agility tasks to again put the games to a real purpose and Spirit did SO well with them all… It was alot of fun and he’s really impressed me with his curiosity, calmness, willingness and connection. Here’s some pics from the session….
Foot in hoop
Walk calmly over tarp
Start of jumping
Touch cone from a distance and then flapping flag
Pedestals 🙂 🙂
Mark just put together a fabulous ‘scratching post’ for the herd with a very long post in the ground and some great long brush heads on the sides and top…..today I spent some time familiarising the herd to this new fun piece of equipment and am hoping to see them using it soon 🙂
Familiarisation with Stormy and the scratching post
Tara and the scratching post, she likes a rump scratch so hoping she finds this useful 🙂
Spirit was the most curious about the scratch post
Today Mark and I went out to play with Storm and Spirit together in the Agility area. Working on our connection and putting our techniques to a purpose more and more it was a lot of fun. Stormy first worked with Mark online and then with me at liberty but he was constantly there whilst I was playing with Spirit which was lovely.
Spirit did well with:
1) Learn to take some trot energy and put in a jump with a half circle then take that jump half circle and make it a circle and then after that we tried our 2nd circle/jump/change of direction to go back to a circle and do the jump the other way 🙂 impressed with his understanding of my body language and cues so quickly now.
2) Put just ONE foot on the medium sized tyre pedestal….he got this cue straight away.
3) Weaving through cones and understanding my body cues again so quickly….upright and towards him means forehand move/go away and slumped a bit and turn away means draw towards on the side/forehand towards 🙂
4) Following behind me slowly through the labyrinth obstacle…he didn’t touch the poles once.
5) Trotting over the trot poles, firstly using a circle game which helped him get into gait easier and then with the half circle game which required him to go up into trot straight away to be able to trot the poles. He did the poles very nicely without touching them and also was stretching nicely with his legs and raising his withers and back more than before. Osteo did a good job 😉
6) Going through the shelter/tunnel at liberty a few times without rushing it, facing it afterwards and also transitioning in it 🙂
Lovely weather today so out with the horses and Mark for some fun and filming next lesson with Spirit. We had a nice online training session first which had us practising some techniques and starting new ones. Here’s some pics…
Placing a foot on something has been learned well as now I can ask him to put his foot in/on most things.
Am slowly asking him to think about bringing 3-4 feet onto the big pedestal, he doesn’t understand this cue yet so I helped him learn it by placing a hind foot up on the ped with my hands 🙂
More circling, this time we’ve got it to 4 laps in trot on both sides and am slowly bringing in a change of direction (COD) to build for our fig 8’s.
I put this drain pipe up inside the tyres today to make it a slightly higher jump. He walked over it several times and then when we matched our energy he jumped it nicely 🙂
First time with focus/sidepassing, using the big deer fence along the field boundary helped a lot.
After a nice play which helped us connect through relaxation and the techniques for each game/task I saddled him and took him to a roundpen for some ridden work. We have started his bitless journey with a halt/lateral flexion (LF) and now I want to expand on that with some disengagement to lateral flexion (DHQ – LF) and some forehand move (FH) to DHQ and LF….this all builds to where I can move all four of his feet in all four directions (forward/back/left/right). He did SO well today, all the basics went well, we moved his forehand with our outside leg and direct rein, we moved his hindquarters with an inside leg and an indirect rein and his LF was light and easy, he’s stopping on a big breath out beautifully in walk and we also added his backup which was a bit sticky at first but his second time was so nice.
Mounting from the off side today…his idea.
Standing still whilst mounting and waiting to be asked to move off all in place nicely.
Walking is better this time after having the equine osteo out, no swishing of his tail and very positive walking off. Working on DHQ and FH moves with COD’s and circles using both forehand and hindquarter moves.
Standing still for dismounting too is fab 🙂
More practise sessions while the weather is being kind to us.
Familiarisation: the flag is a hard one, he is a bit worried by it by his sides and behind hips but okay at the front or standing on it so more work to be done with flapping things, tarps etc.
Circles: He is doing very well with the amount of circuits he does, up to 4 in walk/trot now and I’m just starting to ask for a draw to finish as well as the disengage, the draw is to set up the Change of Direction (Cod) for more games later on such as fig 8’s. What I need to address soon is his high head/hollow back with the circles, I will first try the game on a longer, 22′, length rope and in our next lesson session I will be asking for leg yields off a circle which I hope will help him get his balance dynamics better for arcing the circles 🙂
Riding: Did very well with squaring up and sidling to the mounting block today and a nice ride. We’re doing more bitless techniques (LF, DHQ, FH, BKup) but his right side is stiffer so we need lots of short sessions to try to unbrace his neck/mind with the DHQ (disengage hindquarters) but as he’s never done anything like this before it will take time and patience to help him get it.
I also put the sidling to the mounting block to a different use today to help him understand this more, I sat on the mounting block and he had to sidle over, both sides, to help me take his saddle off. Always love putting a purpose to the games I teach to help them become more understandable 😉
A bit windy today but out for a bitless riding practise session (this was 3 of 7 since videoing Lesson 6). Some things are moving on nicely, finding lightness with our forehand move (direct rein) and back up but a bit of brace with the hindquarter move (disengage/indirect rein) so we tried using a bitless bridle today as the reins work from the sides rather than underneath as with the rope halter but although regular moves still nice and light the DHQ is still stiff SO back to working slowly through it with the rope halter makes more sense and I know given the time he needs to understand it he will get it okay.
Pics of the four bridles I tried on him today…
The Transcend Double bitless bridle. Reins are just on the ‘sidecue’ part of it and the ‘curb’ is free at the moment in this pic,
The Dr Cook’s bitless bridle (or cross under as some call it). Have used this one regularly with last horse Solly as it hugged him and made him feel safe, but it will be up to Spirit which one he prefers using.
The Karen Rohlf Bitless Halter. A lovely bridle that was used by our old horse Holly, she loved this one as it allowed her face to be freer than the others and she stopped on a big breath out, we’ll see how well Spirit goes along as this and/or the Transcend will be the first ones I try as they are the least intrusive and rely on a good relationship connection.
Light Rider Bitless bridle from Cynthia Cooper in Australia. Nice that all these bridles fit him nicely, once we have a focus/seat/leg connection I will try each bridle out to see which he prefers 😉
Here he is set up to do a bit of riding today. Karen Rohlf bitless halter with reins and rope halter with reins over the top so I can use/try both individually 😉
Riding with one set of reins and the other set knotted and secured to the saddle with a leather, poppered, strap.
Good session with ground work today, started working on circling COD (change of direction) to get more communication with his direction and my body language 😉
Riding session 4 of 7 (from video lesson 6).
LF going well, finding some lightness but he’s still stiff to the right so just taking it slowly until he ‘gets it’ 😉
Session 5 of 7 (from video lesson 6).
Riding coming along now, we’re finding lightness now with the LF and DHQ on both sides now, allowing him the time to figure things out has really helped him learn and become confident with all the ridden changes. He is turning with the open/direct rein almost from my weight/outside leg aid and I’m only using a light rein if needed. The DHQ is light as long as I take the time to put my weight on the inside and inside leg on before the rein and we had our first trot today, just a few strides but a nice start to transitions. I will work on lowering his head/relaxation with our ground work more to help him do that when ridden 🙂
I moved our Agility area from the corner of the field into the middle of the track today, mainly because the old agility area where the scratching post and shelter are has now become Tara’s paddock as she is getting older and needed separating from Spirit who was pushing her around a bit and she was tired and too old for that SO I moved some obstacles into an area where we can play with the boys without disturbing Tara. Spirit watched me doing it all but was still a bit ‘shocked’ to see the obstacles in that area so we went and played with them all to familiarise him to them again in the new environment 🙂
I then took him into the new 20×40 area I’ve sectioned off for an arena and played/rode him. This ridden session is #6 of 7 from the video lesson #6.
With our ground work I’m looking to help him lower his head/relax when in trot. He’s started to do it when going over poles and when he blows out and lowers his head I dhq/halt him and reward/praise to help him realise this is what I’m looking for. Pic on left shows him lowering his head over the pole, pic on right he has just blown out and lowered his head 😉
Ground tying is coming along nicely now too 😉 🙂 🙂
I tried a Light Rider rope halter/bridle with rein rings on the side to see if side rings made communication easier at this stage, it didn’t and he’s becoming light from the regular horsemanship rope halter so I’ll stick with that for now. We have plenty of time to see what suits him but for now the basic’s are important to learn for us to connect with our riding 😉
Lightness for LF on both the right and the left now 🙂