Monday, March 31, 2014

ADT #2

The best way to describe this one is Wow! Just WOW!

I didn't get to drive Kat last weekend or really even work him. Things came up and it just didn't happen. Such is life. After Apache Junction, I had thought of making a few changes since he has sorta seemed 'flat' and a bit almost lethargic in his work. If anyone recalls, in AJ I was pushing him thru the cones and pushing him thru the obstacles. Cindy was my 'gator and can attest that when I pushed him a little in the obstacles, he popped his butt up in protest. It worked because I backed off of him and let him go at his own pace from there on.

I wasn't quite sure what to do to change his energy levels or interest in things or what was going on to cause it. I have started to use the butterfly instead of the snaffle and as per Gary's suggestion, switched my reins to the top ring instead of the bottom one. He seemed better as he was more forward in the butterfly now, more confident and more accepting of it. He also wasn't blowing thru it and ignoring me either like he may do in the snaffle so we were making progress. Also the few times I have taken him out to work, he has never been exuberant about doing things to the point of me needing to lunge him before we went, or letting anything ruffle him while we are out.

After his performance at the ADT in Coolidge? I'm still not sure of what to make of things. If there's anything to leave me questioning everything about my pony- this certainly did it! It's going to take a lot of thought, at least a phone call to Gary and a very solid plan to work on.

Dressage has never been his strong suit. He hates arena work and being too smart for his own good, this is where we can get into trouble easily. I have sorta worked this one out by only letting Kat walk the pattern once or twice before doing it in the ring, before the judge. Our judge was tough as hell, but fair and did not give high marks away at all. No, no, you definitely had to earn them. Our scores of mostly 6's, a 5 and a 7 weren't as high of numbers as I would have liked to have seen, but the comments were dead on and were things that we did or needed to work on. It turned out, this is this judges first driving show, but dressage is dressage and proper movement is a must. Your horse is either doing it right or they're not. She wasn't giving things away and I can respect that. I actually like that in a judge. Kudos to her and I would like to show under her again.

Our 7 was for the movement of coming down the right side of the arena from H to E, turning left and going across to B, turning right and going down the length of the arena, making the corner and going towards A. Essentially we were working to the left and then to the right. Us scoring well on this made sense since we were going from his 'bad' side to his good one. Kat was forward, he wasn't screaming his head off, I didn't Vicks him and although he got a little pissy here and there, he wasn't dogging along on me either. I lunged him before I put him to the cart and it took him a while to blow off his extra steam. Sure he was creeping when I hitched him, (which I know I shouldn't have mentioned it in my post before the event) but otherwise he gave me no indication of what was about to come.

Before our dressage test, Kat got the chance to pee. Sometimes this is a good sign that he is now going to be relaxed and behaved like he should be. He was given a drink to refill his 'tank' and keep him going. After our test, I headed back to our bucket under the trees in the warm up area and gave him another chance to drink and he did. The cones course was next and in the other grass field at the front of the property, the next driveway down. My 'gator jumped on the cart and we headed over there. Kat was excited and trotted boldly down the road and even loped some on the way. He was calm, relaxed and loose in his movement. Things were going well...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ground driving 101

Sometimes you do have to 'back up' to move forward.

After Nuzzling Muzzles posted pic's of the last ADT on her blog I have exchanged a few emails with Lytha, a Horse crazy American in Germany about starting her horse for driving. Recently Cindy was having some issues with her horse and it was recommended she do some long line work with him as well. Nuzz was also having some issues with Rock a while ago and again, I threw out the suggestion to back up and ground drive/long line him.

Can I just say the benefits of ground driving and long line work are HUGE! Because, yeah. They most definitely are. Especially for me and Kat as well as my mares. I am a visual learner. I learn by seeing it happen, but also from hands on. If I can see what they are doing, see them doing it right, I can picture it in my mind when I am on them and then get a better feel for it when it happens right and like it should.

I was told by one of the ladies in the driving club that she does more ground driving than actual driving in the cart. She always seems to k.i.c.k. some serious a.s.s. in dressage in that respect, so obviously her words have their merit. MiKael of Rising Rainbow also told me one time to do more ground driving and long line work with Kat. Make him really work in the lines, then when he is put to the cart he will have life a little easier because of the shafts, but he should still be able to move properly either way.

I can clearly see the benefits of when I do more ground work than actually taking the cart out for a spin. One thing I have found myself doing though- I ask for certain things, particular movements in the long lines, but toss it aside when the cart is attached. WHY? I have no idea! It's one of those WTF moments if there ever was one. He can do it without the cart and he can certainly do it with the cart, if I had only asked him to. DUH!!!

I have been able to sort out my issues in my mares saddle work, by working her in the long lines as well. I can see what she is doing and fix it from there. The long ling work has improved my riding and in turn the riding improves my driving if that makes any sense to anyone. Clear as mud? I thought so. The long line work fixes the horse. When trying to sort out how to ask for something when driving, I ride my mare and think about what and how I am asking for things. The long low work in hunters for example. I know how to ride for it, but driving for it? Really wasn't all that different when I rode it and thought about how I asked for it.

On another note about driving, when starting the horse in harness, you get him used to things touching his body all over and them being able to handle it and let it go without incident. The harness is essentially a whole bunch of straps. They hang down, rub against the horse and sometimes they break. Stuff happens and who knows when it will fall apart, but if you can get the horse used to as much of it as you can, in a controlled environment, little steps at a time within their comfort level- you will be able to reach them mentally in a lot of otherwise scary situations and they will look to you for 'advice' on what to do next. You want to sort of have them experience every scenario of straps dangling around their legs and such so that when the day comes that a strap comes loose or breaks, they are fine with it and wait to let you sort it out.

Stopping is a HUGE issue with driving. How many times do you hit the brakes in your car, just running to the store? How many times do you expect those brakes to work? The horse is no different. Whoa means stop everything NOW and don't move. When starting the horse to drive, you will or at least should do a lot of stopping, standing for various lengths of time and waiting. Walk a serpentine, stop and stand, walk a circle or two, stop and stand. There should be no effort to move forward until you are ready and ask for it. You don't know how long you may have to wait in traffic or for it to clear if you ride or drive near roads. Kat admittedly likes to creep on me. It drives me nuts and I can't stand it when he does it. Your horse should also stand quietly for hitching and unhitching. This is when Kat's creeping really sets me off. He knows he shouldn't move, but one step, two steps and slowly before you notice, we're halfway across the parking lot.

Another thing I did with Kat was to push him to his limits. This was for a few different reasons. 1) To see how much he could take before he blew and 2) to see How he would blow when he did. 3) I also needed to know what his 'trigger points' were. What was going to set him off? Even still, does everyone remember his ***epic tantrum*** at the horsepark? I still wish that had been recorded. Kat blew up in a big way and nobody seen it coming. It happens. It really sucked at the moment, but we survived and moved on. One of the women that was there for it, is still amazed by what happened and how far we've come since then, when she sees us at the ADT in AJ.

If you know your horses trigger points, warning signs and what they do leading up to a meltdown, you can divert the energy and Hopefully avoid the meltdown before it happens. You will know when you are trading on thin ice with their delicate minds. You can also begin to work them through things leading up to what might have caused the epic meltdowns before. It all takes time. Sometimes you have to slow down and back off to make progress, if that makes sense. If anyone wants tips on how to ground drive or long line work, let me know in the comments and I will try to get photos more hands on type stuff.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

We're gettin' there

I didn't get to go to the CDE this weekend. Heck I didn't even get to go watch. I was bummed about this so I did what anyone else might do. I took Kat out for a drive. He needed it and we drove in a new area.

There wasn't a lot of wide open spaces to work with so we took off down the road. At first Kat wasn't too sure about the lines on the pavement. They probably looked funny, but he quickly got over it and off we went. He was happy to be out exploring. We logged just under 3.5 miles and the majority of it was alongside busy roads. We were passed by all sorts of cars, & SUV's, a few motorhomes, trucks pulling trailers & boats, motorcycles of all kinds, joggers, bicycles and we also seen plenty of barking dogs, birds flying up out of bushes, jackrabbits, swaying real estate signs and all but the kitchen sink. There was plenty to get Kat fired up about, plenty for him to Be fired up about... But my little man just trucked along like it was nobody's business and was his good old, steady as he goes, bad ass self.

Of the few cars that slowed down for us, many of the drivers and passengers waved, made comments of how gorgeous he is, he must be cheaper on gas and a group of guys yelled who knows what from across their yard as we cruised on by. I had set my reins on the upper ring of the butterfly as Gary had told me to do and it seems to have done the trick. Kat was light in the bridle, but never once did I feel like he was intimidated by the bit. He was soft, bending and although he looked around a lot, when I asked for his head to straighten out and he move over a little, he did willingly and beautifully. He is still a work in progress some days, but when we go for a drive and he was that good... Dang he makes it easy to love him that much more.

Friday, March 7, 2014


With the CDE this weekend, I'm pretty bummed out that I won't be there competing. It just plain sucks. I also decided not to volunteer, so instead the girls and I will go and spend the day watching and cheering everyone else on. Hopefully I can get some good pictures to share...

I am hoping to get some driving time in with Kat soon too as the next ADT is the end of the month. As always it will be here before we know it and with the changes to be made with how I use his bit as well as being armed with a small jar of Vicks... We will just see how it goes.

I have been looking at the dressage test and trying to wrap my mind around this one. Half circles, lengthened trot, and the halt, wait, back up part is now right. smack. in. front. of. the. judge... I hope Kat keeps his mind in his head for it or at least my swearing at him to a minimum. LOL!

I also looked up the information for the ADT in April. The dressage test is different for that one too. The benefit in all of this, with the test for each one being different? It is keeping my mind and his fresh. We don't work on the patterns of the tests, we work on the elements of it. If Kat doesn't know the pattern, he can't anticipate what's to come and second guess me of what he should be or needs to be doing. It seemed to work really well with him in AJ last month.

I will walk the tests in a big field. I will 'walk the test' on the treadmill at the gym and I'm sure people will look at me strange for it. I did this last month and have tipped my head for my turns, lengthened my stride for lengthened walk and trot, moved my fingers as I slow him down or ask for our back. I may even let Kat walk thru the test once out in the dessert as we practice, but he will only get to walk thru it and probably only once. Next month will be the same, only with a different test.

One thing I did notice that was lacking in AJ was our music. Usually I pick a song and sing to him in the ring. It gives him a tempo to go by, makes me breathe and helps us both to relax a little. I had nothing. I hadn't even thought about singing to him, let alone choosing a song. I have used a lot of different songs in the past. Songs sung by Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire and several other country artists. Maybe this time I could change it up a bit and use something different. I'm thinking some Ozzy Osbourne or some Motley Crue might do the trick.