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

Family Trail Ride: Horse Dreams Come True II

The family was finally ready to live their dream of a family trail ride. I trailered the ever-dependable Lucy over to join them. While the family was tacking up, Lucy and I fully enjoyed playing in an actual ARENA. Our grassy riding area at home has lots of obstacles and natural challenges, but the consistent sand footing and an actual “rail” were a nice change.

 

Laura was ready first. we played a couple of games with bending poles and pick-up cones waiting for the others. Lucy settled right in with the strange horses to give her nicest canters ever and even show off a little in the games. At around 16.2 hands, Lucy towers over the family’s Quarter Horses. Her long and floating strides made the arena seem small.

 

Everyone assembled, made sure their breaks and steering worked, and checked their girths a final time. I hung the camera off my saddle.

 

Love, dedication and natural horsemanship laid the foundation. Autumn’s glory set the stage. Let the Dream unfold!

 

 

 

Dream come true:  ready for a family trail ride on horseback

“Ready to Ride!” The Knock family and Lucy. I’m on Lucy’s back, shooting the picture.

 

 

 

The old man in the oak, a burl in an ancient tree looks decidedly Entish

Straight from Lord of the Rings,”The Old Man in the Tree” looks like one of Tolkein’s Ents

 

 

Shed building

We pass the guys assembling a new chicken coop in the back field- and see another kind of Deere.

 

Horse supervises shed project

“Do they know what they’re doing?” June seems to ask.

 

 

 

…Now to find a husband horse for Dad!

Natural Horsemanship in the Middle Ages

The Web Whisperer just overcame a longstanding glitch in our systems. We are now able to access all the horse training, horse showing, and adventuring media we have been creating through the last few months. Expect a bunch of belated updates!

Our friends in a neighboring kingdom hosted an SCA medieval equestrian practice. We jumped at the opportunity to play our favorite medieval horsemanship games with great people while increasing our horses’ competencies. We love win-win-win!

Our horses faced new places, new horses, and new challenges…even new outfits! Natural horsemanship laid a solid foundation for acceptance and quick mastery of new experiences. Clicker training accelerated the horses’ comfort level with flailing swords, bobbing lances and billowing costumes.

Lucy, of course, took it all in stride:

Lucy, 5 yo TB mare for sale, cross-trains at an SCA medieval equestrian practice

 

Lucy, all around TB mare for sale, cross trains at an SCA equestrian practice

Lucy, all around TB mare for sale, jousting at the quintain

We-show Horse Show

We woke before the sun to groom and load the horses. Ours was the first trailer to roll into the horse show grounds. I hopped on Gideon first, determined to give him the slow warm-up he responds so well to– and to avoid my mistakes from the county fair horse show. Lucy and Angus practiced waiting patiently at the trailer for their turns.
Gideon schooled beautifully. Natural horse training methods let us lay a solid foundation at home and speed up success in the horse show ring. A game of “touch it with your nose” chased away Gideon’s initial apprehension at the gaily painted barrels around the grounds and in the arena.

The groundskeeper appeared and started shaking new garbage cans into the metal barrels around the ring. Gideon ignored the commotion and gave his most balanced canter yet.

By this time I was getting a little concerned. We still had the showgrounds to ourselves! I introduced myself to the groundskeeper and asked if we had the right weekend. He replied, just as puzzled, “yep, today’s the day of the horse show. They’ve usually started by now!”

There’s no such thing as a no-show. Clearly it was a We-Show! We were there…with a trailer full of promising young horses to school! And school we did, making full use of every opportunity we could create. Angus and then Lucy had their training sessions in the arena. Monavie kept my blood sugar level and my energy up as the heat and humidity skyrocketed.

Eventually another couple arrived with a lovely, half-Connemara yearling out for her first show exposure. We watched from a distance as the power of natural horsemanship –or lack thereof– became clearer and clearer. The filly’s handler held her tightly on a chain shank and walked her in small circles. The filly just got more and more wound up.

Natural horsemanship offers a toolbox to access when trouble kicks up. With a few basic communications in place, that filly could be handled in a way that would help her find harmony with her handlers and her surroundings. Her nervous energy could be channeled in a positive direction.  Instead, her frustration level mounted, along with her misbehavior.

A few more trailers pulled in with well-dressed riders. Cell phones hummed, new shows were found and the tiny crowd dispersed. We finally learned that the horse show had been cancelled earlier that week due to hurricane warnings, but no one bothered to tell the public!

No worries! Our horses were unloaded, hosed off and grazing in their pastures before worst of the day’s heat, after a thoroughly successful we-show horse show!

Gideon and Angus chillin' at the horse show

Natural Horsemanship at the MPHSC Horse Show

Despite visiting family, we managed to work in a quick trip to the Maryland/Pennsylvania Horse Show Circuit show. We brought along Angus, Lucy and Gideon. The show grounds offered an indoor and outdoor arena, and a large field to play in. We left Angus and Lucy contentedly munching hay at the trailer. We set off with Gideon in search of adventure and horse training success. Mark generously joined us with the camera.

Natural Horsemanship challenges us to work with our surroundings to create original and effective ways to train our horses. Yesterday’s heavy rains left a long 4 foot wide pool of water that called to my imagination. While other riders avoided the “icky field” and crowded into the outdoor ring to warm up, Gideon and I took the trail less traveled by. What a perfect opportunity to focus Gideon’s mind away from the nervous chaos of the horse show and towards deeper partnership and communication with his person!

At first Gideon was nervous, but obedient. He responded to my request to cross the water with a willing and careful jump:

Natural Horsemanship Jumping Water

 

Despite his overzealous effort, I rewarded his try with a click and a treat. Success builds confidence and soon Gideon was splashing calmly through the water:

 

Natural Horsemanship Crossing Water

The water crossing exercise engaged Gideon’s mind and brought about obedience and relaxation far more effectively than endless circles around the warm up ring. I mounted up and together Gideon and I wound through the hustle and bustle of the in-gate and along the road. My goal was to seek out every “challenge” the show grounds offered and turn them into games to increase Gideon’s brains and bravery.

 

Horse in Traffic

 

We made our way to the gaming arena. The speed events were over, so Gideon had to be comfortable by himself in this unknown arena. Opportunities like this leave no excuse for buddy sour or barn sour horses! We played around with the barrels and the poles, then did a typical “hunter show warm up” just to prove there were no holes left in his foundation.

Natural Horsemanship Bravery with Barrels

Natural Horsemanship Pole Bending

 

The horse show folks were wonderful but the class schedule was chaotic. We were looking to show in the hunter classes or the pleasure classes. I even packed along western tack just in case that was our only option!

Our possible classes were pushed far later than we intended to stay. As it was we decided leave without schooling Angus and Lucy. They have both become so calm and consistent at horse shows and other field trips, and we had family to visit with!

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