Gold Stars for Ally!

After a brief Hiatus due to back problems and rain, yesterday marked what was essentially the first full-on dress rehearsal for Siege of Glengary.

Ally was a champ! We added a caparison to the mix which she calmy accepted, and also added scary stuff: full contact with weapons engaging targets.

After a little bit of nervousness, the crash bang boom of the reeds and the resounding CRACK of the lance on the quintain were met with cooperation and control. If I had to put words in her mouth, I think she would have said its in her blood to tilt!

Pig lancing didnt seem to bother her at all, Im not entirely sure she even noticed what was going on 🙂 We made two passes at the pig and stuck it both times for a flinch factor of zero!

I did have some issues with the heads row, but they were short and had more to do with communication steering than with anything else… Yes, I really want you to weave! It is, of course, quite the pleasure to be asked if thats what I want! What a pleasure indeed!

Hopefully it will stay dry enough long enough today to get another day of practice, but at this point, Im feeling at rest about having a safe, fun ride on Saturday!

Major kudos to Metallica!

And while Im at it, major Major kudos to my Wife who taught me and continues to teach me how to do all this stuff 🙂 Happy Birthday, Love!

Metallica – Training Heavy Horse

I can tell already I’m going to have fun with her name.

Yesterday was a day of straightforward run of the mill successfully uneventful horse training! The goal was simple: take a horse that had fairly limited experience with me, build on the trust relationship we’ve been establishing, and introduce medieval weapons… a rattan sword and a 12 foot lance… both for the record are very blunt 1-inch minimum rounded edges… to the equation and get her to calmly accept their presence. Uneventful was the goal! And uneventful is what I got!

Here’s how…

Ally has an awesome foundation in natural horsemanship. Rock solid foundation. I took the extra time yesterday to take advantage of that fact and stack the deck in my favor from the get-go.

Beginning with leading out of the pasture with calm presence of authority, I took the time to very pleasantly do a thourough job playing friendly with various grooming supplies and tools, ensuring a happy, well scratched and contented horse entered the round pen.

I spent time starting at square zero with the lead rope over all quarters of the body. I ran the rope around legs, etc etc; and did the same with a carrot stick. All quarters, all angles, rubbing with the stick, and tracing with the rope. At convenient points she was clicked and rewarded for calmness.

After Id exhausted the possibilities of friendly, I ran a couple cues to make sure she responded to pressure and cues, trotted her once around each way to break up the boredom, and set about the real task: weapons training.

I started off just holding the sword in front of her until she sniffed at it. After we had that calmy accepted and rewarded, we just rubbed along all parts of the body and neck gently and friendly, just like the carrot stick. After that, waving the sword back and forth, up and down, slowly by her face. Click! Reward! We’re done here!

The lance was a bit more scary and difficult… but only like walking into a light breeze. It -is- 12 feet long, and may in fact be the first large stick shes seen not firmly in the ground with leaves. I held it vertically for control and weight, about 6 inches away from her.  She moved away at first, but I just followed with the lance until she stopped and rewarded the calm. Soon thereafter, I was rubbing the 12 foot lance everywhere on all quarters and down both sides. Rewards galore!

We finished up with a brief, in-hand introduction to the quintain. No reaction at all, even when the wind pushed the shield against her nose. Our last little bit was an in-hand walk through the reeds and on the correct pathing for the heads games.

Praises galore!!!

That was a fine time to leave well enough alone and so we wrapped up the day with radical success… a radical success built by careful planning, encouragement, and solid foundational work setting the correct tone for trust, communications, and learning.

9 days left until showtime. And I hope to continue applying the principles of horsemanship in a careful and accurate manner to achieve not only the short term goal.. Siege of Glengary… but also the long term goal of educating the horse to implicitly trust the human!

Until next time!

Mark

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

Video Play, Medieval Jousting

We’re exploring our beloved SmugMug as an alternative to YouTube. SmugMug already hosts our Laughing Gypsy Photography and TerraWolf Photography. We’ve been thrilled with the sites–and with the print quality of the photos they produce!

Now they support video… happy dance!

Here is a jousting pass from the Maryland Renaissance Fair on Labor Day Weekend. Let us know if you agree that the video quality is waaay beyond YouTube! We welcome your comments!

 

 

 

 

 

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

Natural Horsemanship in a Sabre Skirmish

In uploading video from this weekends’ Cavalry demonstration, I noticed another example of natural horsemanship principles at work in the very unnatural setting of the sabre skirmish:

 

 

 

 

Watch the grey and the palomino. Notice their riders aren’t carrying weapons. (Notice, too, the grey starts out clearly saying “no way!” to the engagement!)

It appears that these two horses are new to mock battle. (We saw the palomino being introduced to mounted shooting with a horsey buddy to give him confidence.) Their riders weave in and out of the circling horses and clanging swords.

Moving forward through a series of achievable, progressive steps is the hallmark of an effective horse training program. How better to teach a flight animal to willingly plunge into battle!

Natural Horsemanship and Cavalry Mounted Shooting

Natural horsemanship pops up in the most unexpected places!

Mark and I stopped in at the National Conservation Center for their Autumn Conservation Festival. The Center is located almost next door to Mark’s house, which we’ve been prepping for sale throughout the summer. Throughout the early 1900’s, the Center acted as a bustling Cavalry Remount Station. The 7th Virginia Division E Cavalry set up their encampment and performed demos throughout this weekend’s festival.

One of the training drills resembled our medieval reenacting game of Behead the Enemy and the increasingly popular cowboy mounted shooting. Horse and rider race down a line of head-high balloons trying to shoot them at speed.

 

 

 

A cavalry officer on a novice horse unwittingly demonstrated a foundational principle of natural horsemanship: work with the horse’s instincts to make the right thing easy. In this case, another rider on a seasoned mount flanked the spooky horse throughout the run. The novice horse gained confidence from the veteran’s nonchalance in the face of gunfire, smoke, and popping balloons.

 

 

 

I guess you can take the natural horseman out of the training arena, but you can’t take the training arena out of the natural horseman. Even on “non-horsey” days natural horsemanship pursues us!

Return to the Middle Ages

After Saturday morning riding lessons, I snuck over to a neighboring SCA medieval equestrian practice.

Lady Alienora from the Incipient Canton of Abhainn Iarthur generously shared her steeds with me.

Lady Alienora and JR

Lady Alienora and JR at the Reed Chop

Lady Brandwyn Alston of the Rift, Atlantia’s Deputy Earl Marshal of the Horse, marshaled a day of medieval horsemanship and impromptu music.

SCA medieval equestrian game of tilting the rings

Gorgeous day in the pouring sunshine, doing the things I love most in the world, while ethereal voices sang period ballads under the pavilion. Yup, great times had by all!

 

Sca Equestrian Practice

Click here to see the full gallery of images.