Monday, September 28, 2009

The Weekend

It fined up for the weekend and in spite of the busy schedule we had, I managed to squeeze a ride in. Daylight Savings through everything out of whack, so I didn't get up till 9. Luckily that meant it was only 8 o'clock temperatures so Fox wasn't too hot when I got there. Mucked out as I do every morning, but the wheelbarrow was broken so I had to use a sack. Nice.

Fox seemed keen to get out and about so I decided to go for a hack instead of school. He only lifted his leg three times when grooming and for three of his feet he was great, the fourth he slammed down a couple of times but there was no evasion or nastiness. He was perfect while I was saddling up. I've had to change his gullet size again as he's put back on all the weight he lost over winter. Still need to get a saddle fitter out. Damn renovations sucking up all our money!!

Fox was eager to get going and sidled all over the place when I was mounting. He doesn't have a lot of patience for standing around. I've not been for a hack around here so I thought I would just cruise around and do a bit of exploring. Fox was on high alert. There was a bit of snorting and blowing going on but he wasn't too spooky. The road faded away as we reached the estuary which Fox looked at all wide eyed. I could see the road reappearing over the other side of the channel which looked shallow enough for us to cross but there was a whitebaiter fishing pretty close. I didn't want to make him angry, some have a pretty mean temper if you disturb their fishing.

I turned Fox and we walked down the side of the channel. It was muddy going in a few places but Fox coped ok. He had started to jig a bit so I was working quite hard to keep him to a walk. When we couldn't go any further we turned around back to the road.

I decided to have a bit of a trot to stop Fox jigging. It was a huge power trot and he wanted to canter which I wasn't comfortable doing on the side of a road. He did a couple of little bucks so we went back down to a walk. When he was calmer we tried a trot again and got something that was slightly more in control. The grass ran out far too quickly though so we were forced back to a walk. I am really missing the orchards of the other grazing right now. The most annoying thing was of all the cars that passed us, only one slowed down. Fox is fine with traffic but it still makes me angry.

Fox had worked himself up a bit so he was covered with sweat even though we hadn't done a whole lot of work. He's obviously feeling good so I think we can step up the workload a bit. The weather isn't cooperating though of course. It has packed in again and won't clear till Thursday according to the forecast. But with Daylight Savings here I should be able to squeeze some more hours in.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Where we're up to

First I want to make some changes to the last post. I'm not going to be a bitch, but I will be firm. I am probably soft with Fox but if I get too hard, he is going to fight. Definitely not what I want.
So, I will be firmer, but not too firm unless Fox goes way over and does something like try and kick me again.

Fox has been back in work for three weeks now. The first week was just handwalking for 20mins three times a week. During the handwalking we worked on his responsiveness to whoa and go and stand which doesn't work so well yet.

Second week I rode once, went for one handwalk and did one session of groundwork. The first ride back was fantastic, I'd forgotten how much I missed it. Fox was an angel, responsive listening, no rushing. He was however a total prick when I was saddling up. He started threatening kicks and tossing his head and evading. Next time I groomed him I carried my dressage whip and every time he lifted his back leg, he got a flick. Not a hard one but enough to know it was there. He stopped very quickly and then stood nice and still. The groundwork is going well too. And after a session, Fox is much better with his feet.

I think when I found out he may be sore, I gave him a lot more slack than I should have and he took full advantage of that. Now I know he isn't, he's got no excuse.

This week so far we have done one ground work session and one ride. The groundwork is getting better and better. He will move back, forward and sideways with only a small amount of pressure. He will also drop his head with poll pressure which is awesome as he normally hates this. Doing the 'Friendly game' we also discovered that he LOVES his ears being rubbed. His eyes rolled up and he stretched his neck out, it was so cute. He will also follow me, which he has never done before.

The ride was ok, lots of rushing at the trot and falling in especially on his right rein. We did have a good canter around the outside of the arena. Fox is feeling good!! I was riding with no stirrups and was sore for two days afterwards LOL. But good for me.

I probably won't get much more work in this week as the weather has packed in and it is freezing!! Fox has his winter cover on again. I had even put a salt block out which is now half dissolved.

The key thing I need to work on with Fox is his basic responses. Go, stop, left and right so I will be working on those before we start real schooling.

We also really need to go on a nice long hack and do some exploring. Hopefully we'll be able to find a place that Fox can have a bit of a blowout. He needs a good run.

Working with clear goals in mind is definitely improving our relationship. Instead of just riding, I'm working towards something. Everything I do around Fox now, has purpose. I'm more aware of every action I do and every reaction from Fox.

We are also on the hunt for a proper barefoot trimmer. Fox has been without shoes for over a year now but the guy doing them is a farrier as apposed to a trimmer and maybe hasn't been doing the best job. It'll be interesting to see what happens with that!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mean Bitch

This is what my farrier recommended me to be. The guy who helped me load Fox last week also said I handle Fox too 'soft' I found out today.

The fact that Fox tried to kick me on Saturday is making me think all theses things through again. Behaviour like this needs to be nipped in the bud. It is not acceptable in any way shape or form. So if I have been letting Fox think he can get away with this it's not good and I really need to change.

I think I'm going to have to try and find a happy median between these two roads until Fox has got it into his little brain that stuff like this is not ok. Lots of ground work trying to instill basic manners again following the way I originally wanted but if Fox pushes it then I get to channel my inner bitch. Not lose my temper though. He's a smart cookie, it shouldn't take him too long to realise that if he pulls that crap he's not going to get away with it.

On another note, my farrier who I found out yesterday is also a body worker checked Fox's back end and it's all fine. So it's back to behavioural problems for his feet. He does have some issues with his front around his withers though. Which means it's probably time for another saddle fitting.

We also got to see how Fox's crazy brain works especially well today. The farrier who uses rubber mallet thingies to treat the problems did one little tap on the top of Fox's withers. Before this Fox was standing peacefully but when this happened he just went into total panic mode. He just absolutely lost his mind in a split second. This is such a good indication of how his brain is wired, along with his pressure to resistance. He is such a hard horse to work with sometimes and such an easy one at others. He's my big conundrum.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bad Day

Fox was especially difficult today and I had an especially short fuse for some reason. As such, I lost my temper. No excuse.

I was trying to pick his feet out and put the copper sulphate for his thrush on. On and on and on it went with him evading and pulling his feet away. If he is sore he does have some kind of excuse I guess. But then he hurt my elbow and I started to get pissed. Then he tried to kick me and I lost it. He got a massive crack on the shoulder with the leadrope. He was better after that though. However, that's not the way I want to communicate with my horse.

I am really disappointed with myself, I normally have a huge amount of patience and I've only lost it with Fox once before this.

I was planning on going for a quick ride but that went out the window, I didn't think it was fair on either of us to ride him.

It's days like this that the thought of selling Fox crosses my mind. I never will but it would be so nice to have an easy go of things for once.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Move

I ended up getting a local horse guy to help me move Fox. This proved to be very enlightening. The first thing he and his wife said when they saw Fox was ‘do you have trouble with his feet?’ That is an obvious yes. Then they asked ‘how is he to canter?’ He’s fine on a straight but on a circle he has some real issues. They ended up telling me he is disunited in his back end. I must have looked a little confused so he said, ‘he’s out somewhere and it’s probably making it uncomfortable to do some things.’ YAY just what I wanted to find out. Apparently one side of his butt is bigger than the other too though I couldn’t see it even when I stared at it for ages.

The loading was really interesting to watch. The woman who is a Tellington-Jones fan had Fox’s head and the guy was behind. They noticed pretty much straight away that Fox had no yield when pressure is applied. So yay, I got something right. It took a bit of back and forth and Fox got a few cracks on the butt but eventually he was going in and out like a pro. I have yet to try if I can repeat this.

When we arrived at the new place, Fox blew up, arched his neck and flagged his tail so much that the woman asked if he was part Arabian LOL. He was also pulling me around so the guy took him off me. He was quite fierce with Fox but it did sort him out. We put Fox in the round pen so he would be safe in case he decided to be an idiot. He calmed down quickly so he got some dinner and hay to last the night and that was it. Not too eventful at all.

So now I am faced with trying to sort Fox’s back end out. They recommended a massage woman but I’m going to ring around all the local horse ‘fixers’ and find out what they have to offer before I make a decision. I feel a bit bad that I didn’t notice but neither did 2 farriers, 3 instructors or other horse people who have seen Fox. All it took for the people who helped me was to see Fox walking towards the trailer.

Which means Fox’s behaviour problems may in fact be partly due to him being uncomfortable.
We will see how this pans out.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Two lots of good news.

It only took 11inutes to treat all four of Fox's feet tonight!!! He's not spazzing out so much when I pour the liquid on and he's letting me pick up his feet quicker afterwards. He is however trying new things to avoid me holding his feet up. Today when I had one of his front feet up he stretched back until he was almost in a bow trying to get that foot away. Unfortunately I had to let go because I was laughing too much. Cheeky horse!!! But 11 minutes woohoooo!!!!

Second bit of news is not horse relating but I feel like telling everyone. I got 94% for my last assignment!! I am so stoked. Especially so because I was really worried about this one.

Go me!!! LOL

Things To Work On

The first step in creating my training program is to clearly identify what it is that we need to work on. Here is what I have come up with so far.

On the ground

Fox: As he pretty much needs a total overhaul in this area it is hard to pinpoint things but I've found a few

1. Respecting my space.
He is terrible at this and until I realised that it wasn't such a good idea, I've been letting him get away him crowding. This also applies at feeding time.

2. His issues with being touched in certain places.
This includes particularly his feet and his nose. Both of these are highly inconvenient as they interfere with trimming and drenching.

3. Lunging.
I mentioned in a previous post that Fox can get aggressive when lunging. This is a real no no and has kind of put me off lunging so this is something we will probably work up to as his other ground manners improve.


1. Consistency
I think this is the most important thing for me to work on as Fox will find it very difficult to learn if I am not consistent in my rules.

2. Calmness
This means no anger, no fear, no frustration. I am getting better at this already but it still needs some work.

In the saddle


1. Rhythm
Regular rhythmical strides without me having to push and without him rushing.

2. Balance
Staying balanced through transitions and within gaits. No falling in or out on circles.

3. Impulsion
Really getting his big butt working and getting him off his forehand

4. Suppleness
Fox is still quite stiff so getting him to really bend throughout his whole body.

5. Collection
This is really the ultimate goal. I want this to be natural and unforced. I want Fox to carry himself.

6. Sideways movements
At the moment Fox doesn't really understand and the aid needs to be quite forceful. This is something that can be worked on from the ground too which should help.

7. Light aids
Getting Fox to respond to a nice light aid

8. Relaxation
Fox can get quite tense and when he does, his back hollows and his head pops up.


1. Aids
One aid at a time, either leg or hand, not both at the same time as it confuses the horse.

2. Lengthening of leg
I want my leg to be nice and long and no chair seat which I sometimes slip back into especially when Fox starts to rush.

3. Hands
My hands are often too low so learning to keep a straight line from my elbows to Fox's mouth.

4. Stop riding defensively
When Fox starts to rush, I start to tense, my chair seat appears and my hands get too hard.

5. Light elastic contact
Not too hard, not too soft. No pulling!

Wow that's a lot of stuff to work on!! I'm sure I've missed some out too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Short term - from now till the end of summer

1. Get Fox on a float!! More than this really, get Fox consistently going on a float.
I think this will be my biggest challenge as it involves so many elements of training. Getting his groundwork and training his responses is really going to be key, as well as heaps of time and patience.

2. Get rid of his thrush
Keep persevering with the treatment. It needs to be done and it won't go away by ignoring it as much as I would like it too.

3. Work at least 4 times a week with Fox whether riding or groundwork.
This may have to wait for daylight savings but that's not too far away. I haven't decided on a riding/groundwork ratio yet. He needs a lot of work on the ground but I don't want to give up riding either.

4. Make a training program
Have a clear focused approach on what I want to improve and the ways in which to improve it for both Fox and I and both groundwork and riding.

5. Have fun over summer, no pressure.
Just that, have fun, go to the beach, the river, long hacks and hang out.

6. Go to a fun showjumping day
I know there is one in Jan/Feb that would be great to go to. Fox and I both love jumping and would be great to meet some more people.

7. Join local Adult Riding Club
Meet more people, do some different stuff and have some fun.

8. Go on a competitive trail ride for fun
I did one of these a couple of years back and loved it. Fox isn't the right kind of horse for it but as long as he's relatively fit we should be able to do the Training course.

9. Find an instructor
I have heard on the wind that there MAY be a classical dressage lady willing to come over this way and teach. That would be awesome but need to find out more. And need to find money to pay her LOL.

For next year

1. Compete in the Winter Dressage Series - all four
I did the first two this year before study got in the way and had a blast. Will have to make sure my study is a lot better planned next year.

2. Do some more eventing
Did one ODE this year and LOVED it. Fox and I had a blast! We had a terrible dressage but our show jumping was magic and once Fox figured out what he was doing with the Cross Country we had an amazing run.

3. Compete in the Winter Show Jumping Series - all four
This is new for this year but I couldn't make it due to study. Will really need to get that sorted for next year.

4. Have a crack at showing
I'm not sure that this is really my thing, but I want to have a go. Not sure whether Fox is a hack or a hunter, I prefer the idea of a hunter but if he's not that's cool. Will need to get a height certificate and learn heaps more about workouts and turnout and such.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Andrew McLean

The boys in the danger paddock. Even though we taped off every hazard we could find I am still grateful neither of them got hurt.

I've heard his name bandied around forums and such but kept forgetting to research him. I finally Googled him the other day.

Wow, now this is what I'm talking about. Here is a man who's training principles are totally synchronised with what I am wanting to achieve. And I said I would never drink the Koolaid LOL.
The website that I have linked to is for his facility in Australia so a lot of it is not really relevant training wise and he is selling DVD's and books but hey, you can't win 'em all. Check out the article page though. Loads of information on training principles and it's free!! Eat that Pat Parelli and Linda Tellington-Jones!! Nothing makes me more frustrated then trying to find out about a particular practitioners theories and methods and coming to one of these sites. Pretty much the only way you can find anything out is by paying money and I actually want more information before I part with any hard earned cash.

Here's what Andrew McLeans principles sum up as:

The AEBC approach is unique in that it combines classical training with a strong emphasis on scientific understanding of animal psychology and horse behaviour.

I think the really key thing here is that his training is based on horse psychology and behaviour and that the welfare of the animal is paramount. (Though the picture of him with Anky Van Grunsven is a bit if a downer, I do not like that lady!) There is no point training a horse in a way that it doesn't really understand so I like the fact that he has thought about how a horse thinks and acts which makes a lot more sense than some of the other garbage I have read.
Best of all, he does clinics in NZ! Not that I'm going to have any money to go to one anytime soon but it will definitely go on my wishlist. And I'm going to put his book 'The Truth About Horses' on my birthday and Christmas lists. LOL he's really got me hasn't he!!! Well just take a look for yourself and you'll see why :).
On another note, I've been treating Fox's thrush with copper sulphate out of a drink bottle. Boy he hates it. It's a real struggle to get it onto his feet. To do all four I'm looking at at least 40 minute at the moment. My process is pick up the foot, clean it out, very gently squirt liquid on then wait while he has a spazz then try and pick foot up again which takes ages. And once I've done the first one, he's leery of me picking up any of the other ones. It is so exasperating. I've tried squirting it on a cut of mine and it doesn't hurt so I'm not sure what his problem is, maybe the sensation. I'm hoping after a while he will get desensitized.
I'm also hand walking Fox a couple of times a week now in preparation for finally getting some riding done and to work on his leading. Because his legs are so long he does have a tendency to leave me in the dust even though I'm a pretty fast walker myself. This is frustrating because one of the things I'm trying to teach him is where he should be walking and that is definitely not pulling me along!! Work in progress though as everything is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The move is all confirmed for Monday.

The new place is the same price, has a lot better facilities and is closer. I should have moved a long time ago but I really did like it where I currently am.

Only problem is that means I have to put Fox on a float. That's going to be fun!! I've got a friend coming to help me so we should be ok. At this point it will be just about getting him on there and I'll work on his float problems when I've got a whole day.

The owner seems ok, bit of a negative guy but fingers crossed there will be no problems.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Funny Video

Check this clip out. I was looking to see if people who practised Parelli actually rode their horses.
The commentary is hilarious!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I think I had better explain the type of rider I am. I have been riding since I was little, on leased and borrowed horses and ponies. I went to Pony Club for a year or two when I was seven or eight, got my D certificate somewhere along the way too. But I never had any lessons. I mean someone must have taught me how to ride but I don’t remember any lessons as such.

Because of that, the way I ride and the way I think about riding is very unstructured. I can ride and can sit a buck and most spooks but I’ve missed some of the really basic things. Trotting on the right diagonal for example. I didn’t even know what that was until about a year ago. Using your legs to ask your horse to do things other than go...huh?

So despite the fact that I can walk, trot, canter, gallop and jump I am essentially a beginner.

When I got Fox, I realised I didn’t want to just hack out and muck round like I had in the past. Here I had a horse, that whilst unfit could actually do something.

So I started getting lessons with a local instructor. We started very slowly, getting Fox fit and bending. He still isn’t the most supple horse but that’s a work in progress. We also worked on my legs, me learning how to use them to keep Fox on a circle and to prevent him falling in or out. That didn’t last too long as I decided to move Fox somewhere closer to where I live.

It was tricky finding another instructor but I did eventually. We worked on lengthening my leg, my hands, my posture, pretty much everything but that only lasted for a few lessons. She would cancel lessons at the last minute, change days and generally just muck me around. And through it all, I got a huge sense that she just didn’t want to be there which was awful. Eventually I just couldn’t really be bothered with all of it and stopped organising lessons with her.

Then friend of mine came back from England and she gave me a few lessons. We progressed hugely until it came to asking Fox into an outline. It seemed like Fox hadn’t really been asked to work that way before, so essentially we were starting from scratch. Her method was to pull one-two on one rein one-two on the other and getting harder and harder until Fox listened. I had a bad feeling but didn’t really know what about.

Then she moved away and we stopped the lessons and I started my quest on the internet. I realised what I had been doing. I had been forcing his head down when he wasn’t ready. According to a more classical approach, he should be collecting by himself before you ask him into an outline.

So this is where we stand now, I have one approach that is hard and heavy on my horse and doesn’t sit quite right with me but does work. Before I came to my realisations, Fox was starting to go really well. The other way seems better, kinder, more in keeping with the style of riding I would like to achieve but slower and I don’t really know very much about it and don’t have an instructor who can teach me this way.

In the end it’s an obvious decision, the longer, better way is the way we will take. I want a horse that is willing to work, not one that is sour from harsh pressure. It looks as if I will be doing LOTS more research and trying to teach myself this new way.

But it is the right thing to do. The right thing for me and the right thing for my horse.