Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Beautiful Days at the end of October

The last few days of October. The sun is shining. Temp is 70. No rain. No humidity. Just a perfect fall day in Nebraska! The sun sets early, it is dusk at 6:50 and dark at 7! In a few evenings, it will be dark before 6!

As I rode the last 3 nights, it was hard to believe that it was October, and that the month would soon be over. The weather is gorgeous! Trees are in color, even though some are dropping leaves quickly. The bean fields are harvested and have great riding terrain. I took the time to admire the weather, the trees, and the horse below me.

After a weekend of a Competitive Trail Ride, I gave Finny Monday and Tuesday off. I noticed some puffiness in his ankle area and wanted to make sure he had some rest. Last week, all the outside horses were standing in wet, muddy muck, after days of rain. I noticed the puffiness Friday morning. It seemed less noticeable in the later afternoon at check in for the CTR. I watched for and felt for increased swelling and heat during the weekend. He checked out fine on Sunday. The puffiness was slightly noticeable Wednesday before my ride. I’m sure that standing in that slop all last week, along with standing 2 ½ days at a hitching post at nights, and riding 20 miles Saturday and Sunday, didn’t help. We needed some slow ride time now. I walked the field, grateful to see standing water at the orange field drains. I love walking into the water, and so does Finny. He perked his ears and right into the water we go, wading and splashing. I thought that the water on his legs will help the swelling, as long as the mud that he sinks into around the water edge doesn’t make matters worse, pulling tendons and ligaments, adding more strain to his ankle joints. But after the ride, I did notice less puffiness.

Since we had 2 days off, we walked the first field, then walked the edge of the road, stopping for bites of green grass. The next field had ditches to practice on, flat areas to trot, and a small hill to walk up. We practiced some trotting out, keeping my seat light in the cantle, as that seems to be a common thread that CTR judges are looking for. So for the next ½ hour, I 2-pointed, trotting the field at different trot speeds, building up endurance in Finny, and in my thighs! We had a wonderful time walking and trotting around that field, as ½ hour went by in 5 minutes. I rode back to the field edge, stopping to let Finny eat green grass along the way. I was following the corn field to the back edge of the field, when Finny perked up and I noticed a hunter on the other side of the tree line. I shouted, “I’m here riding a horse”, and he shouted back, “OK”. I responded “I’ll ride closer to the barn”. I’m sure there were no pheasants in that area now! I really wanted to practice on water, so we rode to the middle of that field. Going down hill, with 3 or 4 terraces, I practiced, once again, lightness in the cantle as we go DOWN the hill. To me, right now, this is a mixture of 2-pointing and heels down in the stirrups so you are pushing yourself up. I’m sure this effect is going to change as I develop the feel of what the judges are looking for, because I already felt that I rode that a little different the next day. We played in the water, then walked by the dog kennel. Now it’s time to see if Finny will stand still, if I let my 2 dogs out to run. Finny couldn’t see them, but the dogs will run around the corner where he was tied. I have a very active Springer Spaniel, Lady, and a very loveable Australian Shepherd, Posie. They came racing out of the kennel, and around the corner, and Finny just looked at them. Meantime, the Beagles that my son is raising, are just howling. “Why can’t we go, too” they seemed to cry. I know why, if I let you out, you guys are off hunting! Tonight seemed like a good time to see if the dogs will follow me to the field. I haven’t ridden with the dogs yet, and that is another goal. The dogs were too close to home and didn’t want to follow me. They were ready for supper! And Posie, the wimp, was too scared of Finny, and wanted to chase the cat up the tree. If that cat would have turned and hissed, Posie would have been the one trying to get up the tree!

The next night was just as lovely. I didn’t have as long to ride. Finny’s puffiness in his ankles has gone down a little, but I thought I should ride easy. Last night’s ride was longer. Tonight will just be walking. We did the water again. Then I found some ditches that Finny would never have stepped across a year ago. Last year, he would have jumped a 6” ditch, and big! No little jump for this 15.3 hand, long legged guy. That 6” would have been at least a 3’ jump! After the experience of this year’s CTR’s, Finny walked the ditches! Stepping down and around areas that he would have shied from last year. I feel like we are on our way to a responsive trail horse, willing to move through any area or terrain.

Finny easily walks the uphill terraces while I work on being lighter in the saddle. Finny walks slowly and with care downhill. It is harder to be light in the saddle going down hill, and it still takes concentration, especially while working on having no upper body sway! Sway??? I was told to work the hips independently, allowing the hips to move forward and backward, not side to side. This is to be accomplished while being light in the saddle, staying perpendicular to the horse. This may take some time to become natural.

Tonight, I gave both Finny and I a break. I walked around and enjoyed the warm weather while doing chores. The dogs were fed, and I turned my dogs out to exercise and run while I fed the horses. The horses in the bottom lot were quietly eating their grain tonight. 7 horses need 5 different places to eat, as some of them share their grain with their buddy, and some need to eat by themselves. I noticed that the large lot is finally drying up. The mares and babies were petted while I moved around them. The one mare and baby need their own place to eat grain. Then to feed the older gelding. He really enjoys his grain. Duke, my stud, loves his meal of alfalfa (a special treat) and grain.

Once the horses are fed, and contently eating their nightly grain, the evening becomes quieter outside. I put the dogs in their pens for the night. I walk outside and notice that dusk is approaching. The horses move from their empty grain feeders to the round bales of brome hay. The animals are settling down for the night. As I walk to the house, I stop and appreciate the warm weather. I see the changing colors of some of the trees around the house, with the varying shades of orange. I hear the combine in the distance. Within the 10 minutes since chores are done, the sun has set and darkness settles in. It is comforting to being outside at this time of day, when chores are done and everything is quiet. Horses are peaceful.

This weekend I’ll be riding a little longer, a little farther, a little harder. Come along for the ride. Brenda

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gelding Personalities and Behavior

Are geldings timid, scared, quiet, bold, pushy, dominant, playful, or a big puppy dog? If they are in a herd, why are there geldings with each of these personalities? Does their actions affect their personalities and/or behavior? Or does their personality affect their actions and behavior? Can they change and act differently? What would it take to change the personality and/or behavior?
If there is a mare in a herd, I have always seen the mare be boss. Even if there is a bully or pushy gelding, he will not push that top mare around. They may be buddies, as I’ve seen with my passive herd mare and our show gelding. He may have appeared the boss, but she ruled with her quiet, assertive personality. The gelding will try to push his way in, but the mare will win. Some of the other horses may always have a fresh bite mark. Why is there always this challenge for a place in the hierarchy? Eventually, things will quiet down. Then there is a change. Add a new horse. Take away a horse. Younger, timid horses get older, and they start challenging for a higher level. They have become too familiar and now think they own the place. They have a lesson coming!
The top gelding at my place has been the gelding who has been around the longest, not necessarily the oldest horse. This happens in each lot or pasture. When those geldings from different pens, are put into the same area, the gelding who has been at the place the longest, is still the top gelding. The horses have known each other over the fence. Sometimes, they have been in the same lot in the past, and I had rearranged the herd. Sometimes, some horses need more grain, the young ones are kept together, the broodmares are separated off, or the lesson horses are put into their own pen. There is usually no fighting when they are rearranged, but the first time the top gelding is in a pen with a new horse that he has never been in a pen with before, the top gelding will run the new gelding around for a little bit. The top gelding is seems to “herd” him around, putting him in his hierarchy place. The new gelding usually finds the most timid horse to hang out with, giving him a peaceful buddy.
Personality types affect herd hierarchy. A timid gelding is not going to be top dog since he will never fight for that position. Timid geldings could be scared, but not always. They just want to be left alone and go with the flow! They will hang out with whatever horse is not going to push him around. Timid geldings will hang out with the quiet horses, either mares or geldings. They must get picked on because you can almost see them say, “Don’t hurt me.“ Quiet geldings aren’t necessarily timid, they go with the flow and are everyone’s friend. They must have an inner strength, because I don’t see the top gelding pick on this type. They don’t throw off vibes that say, “hey, I’m going to be boss today”. They don’t care where they are in the hierarchy as long as everyone gets along with them.
The bold gelding will always fight for top position. Size doesn’t matter, but he is assertive and sure of himself. He is a dominant personality. Through his actions, he lets everyone know he is boss male horse. The bully gelding is not necessarily top dog, he is just pushy. He only throws his weight around. The bully gelding will run off more timid or quiet geldings, making him seen like top gelding. But watch this gelding around geldings who are more sure of themselves, and you will see who the top gelding really is. I usually see more fighting between these two type of horses.
A quiet gelding is a big puppy dog, but all geldings can be. If all horses, geldings and mares, get affection, grooming, and are treated like they are liked, they will enjoy being around you. I know that my horses like being caught and are at the gate waiting when they think they are coming up to the barn. I’ve gotten in the habit of feeding whoever I am working. They need the extra nutrition if they are worked. They know when they come to the barn, they get a special meal. Now, that might seem like a bribe, but if that is what my horse enjoys, then he starts enjoying grooming more, because, as he is eating, he is groomed. Then he starts enjoying seeing me, because that could mean a treat. If he enjoys me, then he starts to stand quiet in his stall, becomes quieter in his demeanor, and accepts the grooming and saddling as part of his treat time. That doesn’t mean everyone time I walk into the lot, I take the horses out and feed them. That doesn’t mean every horse that comes into the barn, gets a meal. If they are bully, they stand tied. If they are whinying for their friends, they stand tied. When they quiet down, they get a small meal. They learn that they better be good or they get tied until they are good. The smart ones figure this out fast. I do set them up to be good as I always try to bring in at least 2 horses that need to be tied. They learn to quiet down faster, and that is my goal. I try to make their job easier.
The scared, timid, ones need quiet time and slowness from you, to build up their confidence. The bold, top gelding and the bully horses need quiet assertiveness from you. They will sense that you are boss if you stay firm and sure of your actions. The quiet gelding is easy because he already wants to be with you. But he may be so quiet that his training may take longer. He may not move over when asked to, or pick up his feet as fast, or even walk out of the stall as he loves staying there and being groomed!
My horses seem to hang around me when I go into the lots. I will give them a rub on the forehead, and down the front of their face, which they all love. All horses will turn into your best buddy with time, and be your puppy dog! Wouldn’t it be neat to have a horse whose only mission in life is to please? I think so!!! Give whatever you love what they need and they will love you back!
Thanks for coming along on the ride!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Blog: Boss Mare

"Starlet and Duster"
Summer, 2008
It’s time to write my thoughts down. I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately, to sharing what I know, what I feel when I work horses, how I help people, what the horses teach me, and on and on. Life is moving on. What is the best way for me to help people? What is the best way for me to get the most out of horses? Sometimes, we need to think about ourselves and do things for ourselves.

Horses are sensitive individuals. You need to understand the horse. You need to understand what is going on in their mind. You need to give the horse what the horse needs, not what you need to do. Read that last sentence again. Give the horse what it needs! Hmmm. As an instructor, that is one of the hardest things to teach a student to understand and to see whether what they are doing, is working or not. Another hard thing is to make sure the rider isn’t getting frustrated, yet understand what to do. Another hard thing is to teach to feel, which is probably the core of understanding me and how I teach. My goal is to teach “the feel”. I’ll often say, “there, do you feel that” or “that looks good, do you feel what you are doing”, and on and on. Starlet taught me to feel. I like that mare! No, I love that mare! When I give a lesson with her, I know exactly what the person is doing by how Starlet is reacting. More about what Starlet means to me later…

Getting back to giving the horse what it needs. Hmmmm…is the horse a gelding or mare, young or old, previous training or no training, ridden by advanced riders or beginner riders, spring or late summer (it’s amazing how well they act when it is hot outside, or if they are fat, or they have been trained before). Sometimes, this doesn’t matter, sometimes it does. The horse may need something now, today, right at this moment, and then tomorrow….sometimes you pull out the same horse, but you have a different horse’s mind, and that mind needs something different. Does any of this really matter, or does the horse just need someone to understand him/her? More about what horses need later…

I understand mares. I have had a lot of mares: Ann, Ginger, Skipa, Yellow Page, Capree, Goldie, Caprice, Starlet, Star, Misty, another Misty, Chick, and others. Some of these were Broodmares, some where the kid’s horses, some were shown, some are lesson horses. I understand geldings, too. I have had a lot of geldings, too: Cimarron, Rags, Star, Red, Crescent, Bubba, JR, Roy, Finny, and others. Most of these were the kid’s horses, except Finny. Most were shown, then later sold as the kids moved out of their youth years. We still have Bubba. I should keep him. Red has come home for retirement. And I have had 1 stud, Duke. I understand 1 stud. More about the horses that have been in my life later…

Blog name: I was thinking Boss Mare. Reason? I have a Boss Mare cap. I thought people would get a kick out of me wearing it. It’s been on a shelf in my office, staring at me, reminding me that I act like the Boss Mare. I’m going to start wearing it in the spring when I start working young horses again. I need to remind them that I am the Boss Mare. I hope they can read. Another reason? Because I understand mares and I like mares. They let you know EXACTLY how it is, and I like that personality, in both horses and humans! Well, sometimes not so much in horses, especially if they are kicking their feet towards me, or running me over out of disregard to MY space, or just spooked and knocked me over, not seeing me as their leader!!! But then I thought: I wanted to share more than what boss mares do, and I want to share my love for horses, and that horses are a part of my life. (I just typed love instead of life. They are my love, too).
Boss Mares. I love how the boss mare can just look at a horse, in a seemingly harmless way, and that other horse moves away. I love how that mare will let another horse, who is timid, stand with her while she chases away the bully of the herd. I love how that boss mare moves across the pasture in no hurry, but all the other horses hurry to catch up to her! And I love how she is such a good buddy to her buddy! A Friend Forever to that lucky soul! I want that Boss Mare to be my buddy, because then you have a buddy for life! Maybe we all need a Buddy for life. Misty was a nice Boss Mare. Starlet isn’t so nice, but she is still young. She’ll learn she doesn’t have to bully to get her way. But I love the way she nickers softly to me when I’m bring her feed. Love that sound!

Boss Mare. Other horses respect her. She is the leader. She should be a passive leader, quietly doing her job of leading the herd, without striking out. I had a Boss mare like this. Misty. Great mare, never knew when she was in heat, great lesson horse even though she is a fast trotter but fantastic loper, a speed horse who slowed down for beginners learning general equitation, a mare who would drop her head and let you rub her. Perfect horse and I want her back. Hubby would probably shoot me. We sold her to some lesson kids who were getting into speed events and I knew she would babysit them. Our 3rd child just finished his youth years of showing Quarter Horse and 4-H speed events. She was too good to just stand around and “just” be a lesson horse. What was I thinking? She was too good to have sold. Especially after that 3rd child told me that I should never have sold her and he wants her back. What was I thinking? This coming from a 20 year old college student, and a boy to boot. But he loves his animals (he has raised beagles since age 14). I actually saw the present owner this past summer and told him that my son would like her back when his family is done with her. But that family has a 3 or 4 year old little boy…I wonder if he will outgrow her fast since he is following 3 older sisters.

Sometimes, I need people to understand me as much as I want people to understand their horse! I’m as easy to read as a Boss Mare. I need them to understand why I say what I do, what I feel when I feel it, why I do the things the way I do. I’ll show you exactly how I feel, when I feel it, but then be prepared for the blunt, honest truth! I’m a leader, I like to do things my way, I like to have things around me in order. I do need to learn to mosey around the pasture, though, and doze in the sun! My boys are teaching me, not forcing me, to stop mothering them. They are only 21 and 24. My daughter is 26 and soon to be a mother, and soon she will understand me better. More about Boss Mares later…

Currently I’m riding a gelding, Finny, in CTR. Competitive Trail Riding. 40 miles over 2 days. Judged Obstacles. P&R’s. Sometimes, keeping your horse tied to your trailer at night, and listening to them bang their water buckets at 3 am. My horse has me trained, but more about that later…

And I do love riding my stud, Duke. 16 hands of pure momentum. Love that lope. Love his collective, deep lope. Collection. Impulsion. Giving to the Bit. Maneuvers. More on that later too…

I have jumped around on a lot of topics. I just let my mind wonder and I typed. I reminisced. This is the first time in a long time that I thought of my ponies and my first “horse” Cimarron. I grew up on ponies, and I loved my ponies! My first pony, that I have seen pictures of , was when my brother, sister and I were under the age of 7, but I don’t know her name. Then I had Jennifer. Welsh cross, and she had a mind of her own! Don’t they all? She made me the rider that I am today. I loved sitting in her manger, watching her eat hay, and hoping she wouldn’t take a bite out of me!

I have been giving a lot of thought about all of this after I re-organized my home office. Maybe I was just moving things from one pile to another, but some papers did get thrown away. And why have 6 years worth of Quarter Horse Journals lay around, especially after I have taken out all the training, vet, etc articles. I did come across a note that my husband, Tom, had written to me after I started my Quarter Horse business and teaching lessons. He said he was proud of me. He said he would even start lessons with me too, so he could be a better rider! Wow! I’m glad I shuffled piles in my office and found that note. I love my husband more and more each day! We just celebrated our 27th Anniversary this past March. That note is now my inspiration. My husband reminded me why I love doing what I do, and I should tell him that.

More on everything…soon…

Enjoy the day, the sun, the moment! Enjoy what God has given you today!
Enjoy the horse. Enjoy the ride! Enjoy the feel!


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