Monday, January 25, 2010

Back To Work... Sort of

I went to the barn today after work and was pleasantly surprised that it really didn't take me any longer to get there then where we were at before. This makes me VERY happy!

So.. I went with the intentions of just checking feet. I decided to go with the barns farrier when they trimmed last Friday. I had checked all the other horses feet a week before and all though they were all in need of trims no one was chipped, cracked or overly long in the toes. Good signs in my opinion.

Good news.. Feet were perfect! Even Rosie's dinner plate size hooves where round with enough heel and not too much toe. No flares on the sides and balanced! Even BETTER news - this farrier is WAY cheaper then the one I've been using for years.

Now the "work" side of the post. It's been a while since either horse has been handled wait.. Its more like ground rules enforced. Example - Bonnie not backing off a trailer. Rosie not stepping away from pressure... etc. This due partly to weather, and partly my desire to ride.. ride and ride.

So tonight was a grooming, standing, head dropping, etc night for both girls.

The picture shows Bonnie in cross ties. This is because she's become antsy cross tied. She ground ties perfectly will not move if I tell her not to and that's what I do 95 % of the time, so we cross tied while I groomed slowly.

After a nice grooming I asked her to back up. My cue is to stand facing her, but not directly in front of her face, and tap my fingers against front of shoulder while walking into her. Stubborn mare tossed her head and stepped INTO me! Immediate correction by disengaging hind end and moving her sideways in the isle - both ways. Asked for the back again and she shifted weight back but feet would not move, but still, she got the idea. Pat on the neck, and asked again, this time a foot moved. Rinse - Repeat and eventually I got steady backing from my cue!

I finished with Bonnie's head in my arms. One day I'll have someone get a picture of this, but I'll try to explain. I stand at her shoulder facing forward, I actually put my weight against her like leaning on a wall. I then put my inside arm over her neck, my outside arm over her nose and around the side of her head where the halter buckle is (but I don't hold onto halter), and pull her head into me until she just relaxes with her nose in my chest. I do this on both sides. I can not tell you how many times being able to do this with her has allowed us to give her medication or some other not so nice activity.

Rosie on the other hand cross ties good, but does not ground tie very well. So tonight all of our grooming was done out of the cross ties and with lead line over her back so I could grab it at any time. She fidgeted for a few minutes but I'd catch her just as she'd pick up a foot and correct her before it hit the ground. She actually settled down really nicely.

I sure wish someone as there to get a picture of when I was combing her mane. Rosie's bridle path is in desperate need of a trim, so I was trying to get her forelock separated from her mane and the crown of the halter where it was supposed to be when she decided to lift her head up. I had one hand in top of her mane the other on the top of her halter and she lifted me off my feet few inches. I'm sure it was quite comical.

I did the same backing routine as I did with Bonnie, but Rosie backs very nicely out of my space. I don't have to even touch her shoulder most times. Make a motion with my hand in the direction I want her to go - and she does after few seconds of thought and encouragement. Her issue is moving away from side pressure. She wants to turn in circles instead of just step sideways. So I faced her to the stall doors so she couldn't step forward to do the circle around me and worked on just shifting weight away from me until I got one step both ways.

What I struggle with Rosie is giving me her head. She wasn't taught to drop her head for you and since she is so big I'm having a hard time bringing it down. This is a major pain for me when it comes to putting on halters and bridles she knows she can lift higher then I can reach and does. I'm working on the same exercise I do with Bonnie, but we are no where near the stage of relaxing. Does anyone have any suggestions to work on bringing.. and keeping.. the head down for as long as I need?


  1. WOW lot's of great work with them!! I wish the weather would stay warm around here so I could get outside with mine!! I have NO indoor area to take them so outside in the cold it is LOL...or not LOL!!

    You are definitely going to have to get a picture of that, it sounds SO sweet!

  2. That's a good question. I hope someone has an answer. I use the technique of pressing down at the poll and as soon as the horse stops pushing back on my hand, I let go. Each time the horse stops pushing back or lowers her head, I release. Unfortunately, this can take a long time, and I don't have that kind on time in the mornings when I'm getting ready for work. I don't know if it is that I don't practice it often enough to get a fast enough response or what. Of course, if you have a really tall horse you may need a step stool just to reach the poll. In that case, I'd pull down on the lead rope, releasing with each give until I can reach the poll with my hand. Getting the head down from the saddle requires squeezing with the thighs and a steady pull back on the reins. At least that's the cue my trainers taught my horses to collect, but that's a bit different from asking your horse to just lower its head and relax. You can probably choose any cue, and just release each time the horse gets close to doing what you want.

  3. Glad to hear the travel is closer then you thought, and things are starting off well at the new place! We used short sessions of the "steady lead rope pressure/release" eventually working it all the way down. When they need a refresher, it comes back very quickly.

  4. I had an issue with Hunter, one of the Clyde crosses i used to work. he would lift his head a mile high and tip it sideways and look at me with one eye as if to say, "what'cha gonna do about it now, pipsqueak?"

    He only did it when there was nothing on his head and I couldn't reach the Butthead's poll when he was standing like that, not without a step ladder.

    So what I started to do was lay a lead rope over his back and slide it up over his neck until it was at his poll. then I would apply steady firm but not very hard pressure, Just a bit. and I wouldn't so much pull down as just hold my hand steady with the pressure (if that makes any sense) so that as soon as he dropped his head at all he got release.

    Eventually all I had to do was slide my hand up along the side of his neck and lower my hand under his head and down his head would come, but that took months of the lead rope trick to accomplish.

  5. A friend told me about a nerve right behind the ear... I can't find it LOL !!! I may try the lead rope trick.

    It's very funny watching me jump to put things over her ears. I think in her past she's been allowed to back out of a bridle or halter, then learned just lifting her head would get the same result. I've never let her do that even if I'm clinging to her head with my feet dangling, which btw is very comical and has been followed with many words of wisdom.


Happy Trails!