Monday, March 24, 2008


Bonita came to us for training on March 15th. I say "us" because I feed her and lead her around and brush her sometimes, but the fact is that Sara does most of the training. I suggested that it would be a good idea to keep a journal of the progress.

She is 6 years old and green broke. You can ride her, but there was really no control up there. She's a sweet horse who just needs to be finished and given direction.

I'll add to this post in reverse chrono style, so start from the bottom:
Monday, 5-3 - To get you all up to date...

Bonita left our place on April 19th. She wasn't quite ready, in my opinion, but we worked it out so that her owner would ride her several times during the week and I would visit once a week to check up on her progress. I warned her owner that Bonita would tell me if she wasn't following my instructions. Sure enough. Bonita "told on her". So I fixed up the rough edges and talked with her owner about how to keep her horse going smoothly, and gave her a detailed list of things to work on.

I did some cantering under saddle for the first time. Bonita did well - no fussing. She'll just need more cantering under saddle so she becomes coordinated and soft.

Bonita's clinic was the first weekend in May, which was the whole purpose for her coming to me. When I visited the clinic the trainer had everyone working on one basic maneuver so I knew Bonita would know how to do it. It's what we had been working on all month. Bonita did great. She was quiet, not nervous or worried. The trainer didn't spend too much time with Bonita and her owner because he had so many "problem" horses to help along. I told her owner that no advice from the trainer was a good sign that she was doing things correctly. The only problem that Bonita gave her was not standing still for mounting. Her owner had to figure this out on her own or ask the trainer for help. I wasn't going to step in during his clinic. By the end of the weekend, her owner learned how to get Bonita to stand still while at the mounting block. The clinician also taught her and Bonita a thing called the "pick me up" trick, where you tap her hip and she side passes toward you as you are waiting on the mounting block.

We'll see Bonita on and off thru the summer. She's got a huge outdoor arena to ride in, and she's invited the boys to come over to ride for the day.
Wednesday, 4-16 - Another trail ride, and this time Andy & Hank came with us. Bonita was a completely different horse today than she was yesterday! We led the horses down the road a bit and then got on. When Hank was anxious to get going, Bonita stood quietly until I said it was ok to walk. She walked with her head down & a loose rein. If she raised her head to look around, I just needed to pull back on one rein to remind her to put her head down and she would respond. The llama guy was hauling manure with his very noisy tractor & the llamas were running across their pasture (they're kinda cute when they run!). Bonita lifted her head to watch the funny looking thing. I let her look for a second, then the show was over, and I asked for her to put her head back down. And she did. Hank was ready to do some trotting, so we trotted a bit. Bonita had a nice relaxed & collected trot, not too fast, and she was steady (no speeding up the farther we went). Of course we were trotting faster than Hank & when we got too far ahead Bonita wanted to break down to a walk. A little bump & cluck and she was trotting again. I decided to stop & let Hank catch up to us. Bonita stood quietly and we waited for Hank. We got to the cross road & turned around for home. There were a few times when she would speed up her walk, but some strong tugs on the reins reminded her to slow down and relax. We practiced stopping a few times as well. It took a little bit of effort to get her to stop, but she stopped and stood until I told her to go again. We rode all the way home and Bonita handled the traffic well. This was a much better day than yesterday! Overall Bonita did her job very well - relaxed, loose rein, head down, no rushing, moving off of leg pressure, no spooking (even when she saw the group of deer running across the pasture), not worried or nervous.
Tuesday, 4-15 - The trails opened today so I took Bonita for a walk. We went by ourselves. I had the saddle & bridle on, but I lead her most of the way. She was a bit leary about leaving the boys behind, but she came along with me alright. I reminded her to put her head down and she'd relax. She was good with the traffic, no worries about that. She walked along nicely, even past the llamas without any fuss. I got on her and rode a ways. She was doing good, but I could tell she was a bit nervous. We got to the cross road & I asked her to stop. That's where her nervousness got the best of her. Standing still was not what she wanted to do! She went backwards, sideways, forward & every which way. When I got her feet stopped for a few seconds, I scratched her neck and got off. Now it was a little easier for her to stand still, but yet every time she moved a foot, she was firmly reminded to put it back in the spot it came from. We stood for a while, then crossed the road and practiced standing quietly once more (we were pointed towards home this time). She started to relax some so I decided to get back on. We were back to the nervous horse who couldn't stand still. She knows she can't go forward, so she goes every other direction that she can. After getting her to stand for a minute, she'd get mad and start pawing, then the dancing around. And she got strong with her head & tried to pull the reins out of my hands. Sorry have to stand longer now! When she settled down, I said it was ok to walk for a bit. We practiced stopping and standing several times as we headed back home. Stopping was hard, standing still was even harder. I had to get more aggressive & more creative in how I got her to stand. But every time she gave me what I wanted, I relaxed the reins & gave her a scratch. We were approaching the llamas again (and it was getting dark) so I decided the lesson was over & I hopped off and lead her back home.
Sunday, 4-13 - After having the entire week off, we are back in the swing of things. Her owner and a friend came out to watch. Bonita was unfocused when we started, and a few strong reminders were needed to get her attention back to me. Ground work was solid - pivots, sidepassing, lounging...all good. Got on to ride & she was good with everything. Nice relaxed trot, nice circles, good with the crowd of horses in the arena. When we had more room, I did some side tracking with her at the trot. She'd make a nice dressage horse! I was done having fun so I told her owner it was her turn to ride. She wasn't too sure about that idea, but & I told her she had to ride her horse sooner or later. She got on and I showed her how to control Bonita's head by getting her chin to her shoulder. Easy to do at a stand still, but I made her do it at a walk - and keep Bonita's legs moving. After awhile, she got the hang of it and Bonita was doing her job. Her owner calmed down and had a good ride.
Monday, 4-7 - Headed off to the barn with Jin & Bonita in tow, but ran into an owly boarder who didn't like the idea of sharing the arena. Decided to keep the peace and walked home and cleaned stalls.
Saturday, 4-5 - Today was Andy's day to work Bonita, so I'll let him write it: Bonita's owner came over to ride, and she ended up getting a lesson on Jin. I wanted to work with Bonita and see how she was with a new face working with her. She did everything really well from the ground. She minds her space, doesn't rush, and if she needs a reminder that you're at the end of the rope, she remembers quickly. I worked on her pivots and once I asked the right way, she did them just fine, both ways, front and rear. Lunged her a bit - she likes to hop into the trot but she'll go back to the walk when asked. Loped really nice and in control to the left. The right was a little rushy at first, but she calmed down shortly and was loping nice. Got bored with that so I hopped on. She gives her head nicely and flexes all the way to my foot and holds it there on a loose rein. Walked her around a lot in the arena - them long legs cover ground. She responds to leg cues well, but I would usually have to remind her with the rein that I was asking for a turn. So: leg on, nothing. Outside leg with bit of inside rein reminder, and whoosh, she turns. Release, and she stops turning. Nothing unpredictable. You can sqeeze her pretty hard before goes up into the trot, but if you squeeze and smootch, she'll pop right into it. It's initially rushy, but a coupla half halts and she settles right in. I like that she'll stay in whatever gait you ask until you tell her to change, regardless of how many circles and direction changes you put her in. She'd need the occassional bump when she'd pass the big outside door, but after a few reminders she forgot about slowing by the door. Got bored with the arena so we headed outside to the big scary world. Walked around the tractors and wagons and stuff; she didn't bat an eye. Walked around the round pen where a youngin was getting a workout and calling to her friends; she didn't bat an eye. Went up and down the big sand pile; she didn't hesitate one bit. The barn owner came over and said I could ride in the big pasture with the woods, so off we went. Just point her in a direction and go. We got about 300 yards from the gate and she realized she was the only horse in sight, and she paused, but I kept her head forward and asked for a walk. Did some trotting out in the open, and she was a little rushy, but stayed under control. Went through the trees and branches with no problem. The creek crossing gave us about 20 seconds of hesitation, but kept her head forward and kept bumping. She sniffed the water twice and crossed the first creek. She didn't even look at the second creek. Rode along the highway and she was fine with the semi's and Harleys. Blazed some trail until we ran into some thorny stuff, so we had to back out.
I had a blast, and really enjoyed the ride. Thanked her owner for letting me take Bonita for a test drive and headed home.
Thursday, 4-3 - A nice workout today. Some quick groundwork. Some lounging.....lots of cantering trying to get her to relax. Got on to ride and worked again on lots of steering at the walk and trot. The arena door was open and there were dogs coming in and out as it was getting dark. Guess dogs look pretty scary when they appear out of the darkness. She "had a moment" & I had to pull her head around while she was spinning in circles. After that, we had a little trouble getting her to focus on work when we passed the open door. Decided to gather up the reins and try some lateral work. Got her two-tracking real pretty at a walk and trot. She was finally figuring out that she has to work even harder when she doesn't pay attention! She forgot about the open door and we ended the session on a good note.
Tuesday, 4-1 - Back in the swing of things after a long weekend off. Bonita was tied while I rode Jin and Andy rode Wyatt. She stands quietly for as long as she needs to. Her turn to saddle up. Did a lot of lounging, and a lot of cantering on the lounge line. She needs to learn to relax some more, she thinks every smooch to her means she has to start racing. Stops are getting pretty good on the lounge line. She needs a little help with bridling without having a halter on - she's too looky-looky. Got on to ride, worked on steering with leg pressure and rein pressure (neck reining). Very good at the walk and getting pretty good at the trot. Needs some reminders yet at the trot to stay slow & relaxed. Head down is great, bending is great. Stops are getting good. Would like to see her tuck her chin and lower her head at the stop and backing up. Pivots on the hind and fore are excellent, sidepassing is going great (one way is better than the other - but, hey, she didn't know how to do that two weeks ago!). Oh, and she's learned how to stay out of my space when jumping over the creek on the walk home!
Thursday, 3/27 - Bonita has a visitor tonight. Her mamma came out to see her and to ride Hank. At first Bonita didn't want to be caught. This is a new trick for her. I had to chase her around for a little bit, and gave her a crack on the butt a couple times. Funny how that works to catch a horse. Saddled up and walked over to the neighbor's. Was tough to get her over the creek, but at least she didn't jump on my like last night. Overall, Bonita did really well tonight. The stick & rope does not cause her issues any longer. She was quiet and relaxed on the lounge line....just a few times she started trotting when I didn't want her to but she got over that fast enough and was relaxed afterwards. Her canter is still speedy, but she is more coordinated. I didn't tie the reins tonight. I used her regular bridle that Jenny will be using with her. Got on to ride, she took a step or two forward so we'll work more on standing still until I say go. She was quiet and relaxed for the entire ride. I started with working on her pivots and sidepassing. Wow! You would never have guessed that she was just introduced to sidepassing two days ago! She did well trotting around with her head relaxed on a loose rein and she kept her speed fairly consistent. A tug on the reins would keep her from going too fast. Her whoa is pretty solid, her head comes up & I will work on that. There was only one time when she lost her focus on me. Then after a little bit of kicking, circling and yelling, she quickly started paying attention again & didn't lose her focus for the rest of the night. We attempted cantering. Man, can she trot fast! The arena is just too crowded for her long legs to get going, but she did try. Went back to trotting and practicing our leg cues. She does speed up some with the bumping, but will soon get better about that.
Wednesday, 3/26 - After our challenging session last night, Bonita was much improved. Kept her feet still for the stick & rope twirling, but still a little bit of trouble on the lounge line staying at a walk when I say walk. I concentrated on fixing her head tossing a little bit. Every toss of her head would result in her head being pulled towards the middle of the circle. Worked well enough and she kept her focus on me a lot better. Tied her reins up & lounged her at the canter. I think she's ready to ask to canter under saddle, but I won't do that tonight. Riding went pretty well. The cats grabbed her attention a couple times, but she is learning to not worry so much about that kind of stuff. Worked on pivots and side passing. It's coming a little bit easier than last night. Pivoting her shoulders has gotten really easy for her. She gets stuck sometimes with disengaging the hindquarters and needs a big kick to get moving. Lots of circles and leg cues for steering. Lots of trotting and trying to maintain one speed. Not too much of a workout tonight since she did much better than last night.

Tuesday, 3/25 - Worked Bonita after two days off. She is doing much better with keeping her feet still for the stick & rope twirling! Also much improved is moving her hip and shoulders so we started asking for a side pass from the ground. No, we don't use the rail to "cheat" & block her forward movement. We'll learn it in the middle of the pen so she doesn't need to be reminded to keep going sideways and not forward but she'll get there. Lounging is going well. Starting off the walk and trot was much more relaxed, but after I ask for a canter she gets a little excited and doesn't want to relax again. Had to remind her to maintain a walk without breaking into a trot. There was lots of head tossing at the canter so I lounged her with the reins tied again. She doesn't fight the reins anymore at the canter and hopefully soon will start to relax. Riding started off well. Just a bunch of walk, bending, trotting & circling. Put out a tarp and she didn't blink an eye at it. We were trotting over it with no hesitation. I did lots more trotting & circling and Bonita started to think that it was time to be done working. Um, nope, not until I say so! She lost her focus and started worrying about barking dogs. Um, not a good idea. I gave her something to really worry! Had to do some yelling & kicking, but she was smart enough to pay attention to me again. So we continued our trotting & circling and I decided to start working on steering with just leg cues. She did reasonably well at the walk and trot, but would sometimes think it was ok to veer off towards the gate. Um, nope, ain't happening! Got her focused on me again and did more trotting & circles. This girl will learn how to work & pay attention to her rider. When she got the hang of the leg cues, we worked on her stop. Walk four steps. Whoa. Back 18 steps. She always likes to take an extra step or three after I say whoa. Um, I have different ideas! She'll learn what I expect when I say whoa. At the end of the lesson, she was stopping on a loose rein, even if it wasn't the immediate stop that I'd like to see.

Saturday, 3/22 - planned to ride today. Did the same ground work routine & she was a little more relaxed than last night. I lounged her with the reins tied. She did excellent at the walk & trot - she's learning to keep her head consistent through the transition. Introduced cantering with the reins tied (with a lot of slack). We'll have to work on that some more. She was accepting of the new concept and tried, so that's good. She did really well being ridden. Worked on some extended trot, then slowing down to a jog. Worked on whoa & backing up...not as good
as I'd like yet. Worked on pivoting & disengaging the hindquarters....she's accepting that pretty well. Her biggest problem is getting too worried about other things going on around her & not keeping her focus on work. We had a little bit of a challenge with that when the tractor started up, and then again when some horses were led through the arena.

She'll be off of work for Sunday & Monday.

Friday, 3/21 - went over planning to do ground work only. She did much better with the stick/rope, and with being relaxed on the lounge line at the walk & trot. Calmed down easily after cantering too. Whoa is getting better on the line. Tried sidepassing from the ground...went ok. She gets worried with trying new things and the stick being tapped on her hip/shoulder. Helped the 4H girl a little bit...wanted to show her how to get her horse bending & giving to the bit so I jumped on Bonita bareback. Not sure if she has ever been ridden barebark before! She stood at the mounting block for me to slide on. Did a great job of being soft & flexible to show how bending & giving should be done. (4H girl is another challenge!)

Wednesday, 3/19 - First visit for Jenny since she dropped off Bonita. Did the usual ground work. Still very sensitive to the stick & rope. Showed off some ground tying skills. Lounged at w/t/c in both directions. Bonita was much more relaxed today while being lounged. Did her best to stay in the requested gait without rushing. Put the bridle on and tied up the reins. She did fairly well. I only worked her until I saw her relaxing & dropping her head at the trot. She was able to maintain a nice frame for about half a circle today. Got on to ride. Noticed a huge difference in her softness to the bit and bending. Lateral flexion was so much improved from Sunday. And vertical flexion was very impressive - there is actual flexing vs. nothing on Sunday. She drops her head with a soft reminder from the rein cue. Bending to the left (her stiff side) was noticablely better today. No rushing into the trot, she maintained a relaxed gait and was able to keep her head down.
Nice bending - lateral and vertical - at the trot as well. Needs some work on her stop. Jenny thought she was stopping good, but it wasn't good enough for me. If I say whoa, those feet better stop moving instantly. Tried getting Bonita to move her shoulders over and she was trying hard (without over-reacting). Got a few nice cross overs.

Monday, 3/17 - Did ground work as usual. Still needs lots of time with the rope and stick. And keeping her feet still. Worked on moving her hips and shoulders independently. She is very soft (or would it be considered "sensitive" & "reactive"?) to my cues. Lounge line work was better today. Cantering is still uncoordinated, but she'll settle down soon. Didn't ride at all today...didn't even have the saddle on. We focused on giving to the bit, making her really soft, and getting her to drop her head. I tied the reins - through her front legs & up over her withers. If she has her head in the right position, she won't feel any tension on the reins. Most of the time her head was up and the reins were tight. She need to figure this out for herself. I just asked her to walk until she started to drop her head and tuck her chin. When she was relaxed at the walk, I moved her up to the trot. Still high headed and rushy. Eventually she found the spot where the reins gave her a release and she was able to maintain that position for a few strides. Changing directions proved a bit of a challenge for her with the reins being tied. It was the appearance of the stick that made her get worried. Her front feet came off the ground just a bit and she kept backing up. It could have been worse, but she regained her composure and changed directions as I was asking her to do. After lounging, I untied the reins and worked on getting her to drop her head using a rein cue & she did very well. Good enough for the night.

Sunday, 3/16 - Walking across the pasture was much better - no excitement this time. Same routine as Saturday. She doesn't like to keep her feet still for very long when we are working on the ground. Quite antsy. She has some issues with the rope & string touching her and swirling around her. Needs lots of the friendly game. Lounging is similar in that she doesn't want to relax & wants to keep her feet moving - go go go. We worked a lot on just walking. After some over-reacting tantrums from Bonita, she did settle down and walked calmly on the lounge line. Also did some trotting - trying to get her to relax at the trot. And some cantering - kinda wild, legs all over the place! She's not very coordinated yet going that fast. Got on to ride. Same thing as Saturday - stiff, not completely bending or giving to the bit. Did a lot of walking and lateral flexion. Tried vertical flexion & got very little, she just wanted to back up with her head high & her nose out.

Saturday, 3/15 - Bonita arrived. Loaded well, hauled well, unloaded well. Walked across the pasture - turned into a Diva! Flippin her tail, jigging around, tossing her head. Got in the barn and she settled down. Did some ground work, then rode. Noticed she was very stiff going to the left. Didn't want to give to the bit, but steered around ok. Rushed into the trot, tossed her head a little. Overall, very high-headed & unbalanced while being ridden.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy Birthday!!!

A whole bunch of years ago Sara was born. Then a bunch of years after that, she met me. A bunch of years after that, we wed. Years later I find myself writing about it here.

I wish her a happy day, and can only wish that she's half as happy as I am half the time which to say is twice as happy as most folks are all the time.

Tonite we celebrate by going to the local horse club meeting. I know, it's not a night on the town, but we have our priorities. Maybe we'll share a glass of wine after. If I can stay awake that late.

I've been told that her birthday present from me will be a donkey. An ass from an ass. Isn't that sweet?

Friday, March 14, 2008

To My Readers:

I thank you. The both of you.

I must first apologize for not having anything new in some time. Sara started this blog for me because she knows I like to ramble on in script, and I have been sorely unproductive. For this I am sorry. It's not that I don't have anything to write about, it's just that I don't think I have anything interesting to share. Trust me, that thought has been locked in a box and hid in the back of the closet. Never to be thought again. Somewhere behind Sara's shoes. The count of which, I may add, has grown exponentially in the last few years. See, I was blessed with not having married a Shopper. She's very low-maintenance, in fact. Another one of the many reasons I married her, and another one the many reasons I think she's perfect.

Anyway, back to the sudden increase of shoes. Sara works for a large retail chain in the corporate office. One of the perks of this job are these strange occurrences called Sample Sales. I, being a man with a certain level of self-imposed ignorance, had no idea what this is. After seeing her arrive home with two jumbo-sized garbage bags full of plunderage, and wondering how mucho dinero said take cost me, I was let in on a secret known to the retail world as Sample Sales. These glorious events are held once the coffers in the purchasing department are filled to the rim. Salespeople from all over the globe send samples of their wares to the buyers at her company. The buyers give the items a cursory glance, then toss them into a bin where they are eventually piled high with loot. The bounty is priced at ridiculously low prices and offered to the employees. And when I say ridiculously low prices, I am not being ridiculous. I think they give the goods monetary value just to keep the riots quelled. It's hard to riot when you are waiting for change.

So Sara shops. Sara see shoes. Sara searches sizes. Sara seizes sandals. Sara stuffs sackfuls....(I can't help myself).

The two overstuffed garbage bags I mentioned contained findings that cost $29. If my memory serves me, they contained seven pairs of shoes, four pillows, two comforters, five picture frames, a small child, and a rowboat. Not bad.

Recently she came home with a pair of Justin Ropers. These retail for around $99. She had to give $2 to make them hers. They are identical to mine that I paid $79 for on sale. I remember how happy I was that I found them for such a good price. Two dollars. I'm still shaking my head.

Shoes are plentiful at sample sales, and strangely enough, always seem to be in her size. So she buys them. And why not, I say. When you can get Benjamins for Washingtons, do it, and often.

So Sara has become a Shopper. A Super Sexy Sandal Snatching Sample Sale Shopper.