Clydesdale Rides Trail! Putting the Natural in Horsemanship

Clydesdale Rides Trail! Putting the Natural in Horsemanship

Yesterday was a story of turning bad happenings into good results. A bit of background: Much to both mine and Dolly’s chagrin, after spending the afternoon on Tuesday last week mowing the trails through and around the Grove, I took the saddle up to grab Dolly and go enjoy them with Kirsten. Dolly, unfortunately, had limped up to me with an injured hoof, trail ride was over, and now she’s getting treated like the queen she is while we wait for time to do its healing work. Every day she gets a little better, and she’ll come out of it just fine, but it will take time.

That said, time is a fickle master, and Siege of Glengary is approaching. Rapidly. It’s a hit and miss situation, and my warhorse is, for the moment, out of commission. She may be ready in time, but it’s equally like that she won’t. We’re holding out hope, but one advantage of being at Almost Heaven Horse Source is… well… lots of horses to choose from… although not all of them are in -my- skill set yet! We’re working on that!

Let’s face it: given the choice between riding my horse at Glengary and riding my horse for many years afterwards: she can sit it out if she’s not healed. Yes, it stinks. And we’re going to try to make it happen… but not at her expense. If the hoof’s not sound, she won’t even go on the trailer.

So Kirsten set about getting me on Ally’s back as our fallback plan, as much to reassure us we’ll be ready in three week’s time, as to expand and refine my horsemanship while helping to bring along another fine Destrier. Kirsten had already had her out a few times, after dark, prepping her for her new role. Riding around at sunset, making sure the cues were in place, and making sure there were no cobwebs needing to be brushed off; provided an immeasureable foundation for this author to build on. With our dear friend’s beloved Shire hobbling around on a hoof abcess of her own, Ally the Clydesdale might just end up being -both- our steeds for Glengary. Which come to think of it is singularly appropriate; A Scot horse for a Scottish event!

Now, on to the challenge. Let’s face it… I came to horsemanship late in life. The odds of me sailing over 5 foot jumps and turning times in a cross country event are pretty slim… and really not on my radar. But the ability to get on a horse I don’t ride, earn its respect, and develop a working partnership? Absolutely vital!

With Pete no longer in the picture (Graze well, old friend!), the rock-solid steady fallback I could turn to was gone. So day before yesterday, I started to work with Ally in the arena…. moving her through and around the games course, slowly working on our turns and brakes, stops, gaits, and speeds. We went down the row of reeds, started working on the heads row, did command turns round the barrel circle weaving in and out to develop steering communications. We had some false starts, but we patiently worked them through and got to the other side of the ride with a great sense of communication.

I’ve gotta say, it’s really hard to see your horse standing injured in the roundpen while you get on another horse and ride off. She’s my first horse, my partner, and my destrier. And I think almost as much as Kirsten, she taught me how to ride. Leaving her behind was tough.

Yesterday’s goal was a bit sad at first, but turned out really well. Myself on Ally, and Kirsten on Lucy, went up finally to explore the trails I had cut.  After we got out of the barnyard, and we had made our way up to the entrance to the trails, K and Lucy circled around behind us and Ally and I led the trail ride! Ally bravely ventured forth into the woods and calmly ignored the cars buzzing by on Bower Rd, the fawns jumping out of the brush, and all the other manner of natural and mysterious happenings so far away from the barn. What few areas she had issues with were worked through calmly and instantly and on our merry way we went…

…which is rather the point: Every single lesson I had learned from Kirsten on Dolly carried directly over to working with Ally through fundamental trust, confidence, and communications issues; developing a working partnership in effectively two days of rides. With a lot of patient teaching, Kirsten has provided me with an incredible tool kit with which to build a relationship with horses; to guide them through their fears; and to teach them how to do new and exciting things….Naturally!

One way or another, we’ll be riding at Glengary….

Mark

On quality education…

It’s been a while since Ive taken the opportunity to post here. Silly, really, since I’m the guy who keeps the virtual places virtually intact :=) I had some really nice observations the other day as Dolly and I were working in the round pen… and later in the arena… with Kirsten. I’m not so certain I can give voice to everything I observed, nor communicate it clearly enough to create an accurate, concise picture. But hey, for all you beginners out there… hopefully strike a chord.

Dolly and I have been working on our teamwork for about a year now, off and on.  Obviously, I don’t have as much time at the end of the day as I would like to groom, prep, and ride. So we generally go once a week, better some weeks, worse others. Last week was the tail end of several missed opportunities to ride, and Kirsten and I, perhaps a month ago, had decided that we needed some time doing a more formal lesson in the round pen and the arena rather than my typical clean, tack, check brakes, and try stuff. Boy, did my eyes get opened to the bad positioning and misunderstanding of the basic forms of cues I had accrued  through early lessons dimly past. Its not that I was way off. I could move the horse off all points succesfully, get on, and in a general way, communicate my intentions, and barring any major desire for grain, barn, or grass, she was generally cooperative.  Sometimes, she was less so. It’s not that she didn’t like me, it was an issue of respect.

After correcting my little mistakes… body angle here,  clearer cues there… on the ground… I was back to having a full, crisp response. Almost soldierly. Which is amazing with an 1800 pound draft horse. After a trip around the round pen bareback and getting a new feel for her motion and biomechanics with a little bit more exposure under my belt, we put the saddle on and worked in the arena. What a remarkable difference 20 minutes can make when used wisely, and with a competent teacher! To anyone who wishes to really learn horsemanship and thinks they might not be able to afford a trainer… the rapid results, the clear and effective lessons, and the return on your investment is well worth the reasonable price of admission.

Happy Riding!

Mark

New Trails, New Partnership

Suzi invited us trail riding at Stoney Creek Farm when we first met Mikey, our large, lovely TB gelding. Today needed to bring home Cricket, the 6 year old appendix Quarter Horse mare. We used the extra trailer space to transform this task into an adventure! I had the tack loaded in the horse trailer when Mark got home from work. In loaded Dolly and Gideon, and off we went.

What a ride we had! The sudden crispness in the air out Dolly on edge. Natural horse training methods put a variety of tools in our mental tack trunk to quickly engage her mind and her movement. Clicker training speeds the process and enhances results even more.

Gideon, on the other hand, sauntered off the trailer and down the trail like the pro he is rapidly becoming. Suzi was out of town, but Phyllis joined us riding Cricket.

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer ride! The beautifully mown trails meandered through thick forest. The horses wound through the trees and scaled strength-building hills.

New experiences in new places builds precious confidence in our young horses. Today’s gorgeous scenery kept us humans oohing and ahhing and thoroughly enjoying every new twist in the trail! We got to see Cricket doing what she does best: happily moving down the trail and showing the less experienced horses how it’s done. Cricket has enjoyed success in the horse show ring, but truly loves the trails. We’re excited to welcome her into the family!

We gave Phyllis a thank-you bottle of Monavie. Monavie gave Mark and I relief from the constant pain of back issues, overuse, and old injuries. We feel Monavie is the biggest gift we can share!

Tomorrow I’ll post Cricket’s pedigree and pictures. Tonight she grazes peacefully under a full autumn moon.

Antietam Battlefield Ride

I had the horse trailer hooked up and loaded by the time Mark got home from work. We grabbed the horses and a chilled bottle of Monavie and headed down the road to meet Scott and Noel at the Antietam battlefield for an afternoon trail ride.

I brought Lucy. We believe so firmly in building a solid foundation in our horses through a variety of cross-training. Even though this phenomenal Thoroughbred mare has the mind, talent and movement for the show hunter arena, she needs to be a horse first and foremost. I looked forward to seeing how she would handle the traffic, pedestrians, and ever-present monuments, placards and cannons around the battlefield.

What an amazing trail ride! The reality of the bloodiest battle of the civil war entwined with the sun-soaked afternoon and the joy of riding wonderful horses with great friends. The horses were champs. Lucy soaked in all the new sights like a sponge. She has such an incredible mind!

We explored a corner of Antietam we’d never seen. The wide, well-kept verges welcomed long, fitness-building trots. Dolly the Belgian even gave Mark his first triumphant steps of canter! Our loop covered paved roads, grassy verges and mown paths. The battlefield monuments provided plenty of fodder for creative training challenges.

The four humans joined in a refreshing Monavie toast as the sun set and horses happily munched hay. That Lucy just impresses me more and more all the time!

Thanks, Scott, for this great shot of Mark, Dolly, Lucy and I!

Trail Ride at Antietam Battlefield