May 19th, 2009 Water, Miles and Spooks

This week has been one of the most productive training weeks of my career.  I am finally getting Aemelie, my personal horse, where I want her.  Needless to say, I am excited!

Yesterday we rode twelve miles and Aemelie took point.  I love a horse that is forward moving and courageous.  Aemelie is not.

As a youngster Aemelie was brave.  At one point as a two year old she took the lead and tore off through the brush leading the two other horses I had in for training along behind her.

“That’s my horse!” I thought.

Aemelie was born on the plains of an Oklahoma ranch.  Some 300 acres worth.  And she chose me, I didn’t chose her.  But she has remained faithful, despite the fact that I’ve turned her into a faithful and trusted support horse.  The horse that will carry anyone and never make a mistake.

But as my horse, I want her to lead.  I love to run full bore and know that I have a horse who is sure of herself.

Because I’ve only expected Aemelie to be trustworthy, the perfect horse for any beginner or person whose suffered a terrible accident and needs to build confidence and because Aemelie is so devoted to me, she has performed this role perfectly.

Aemelie has given many people the pleasure of a true connection with a horse.  She has given me her heart.

This weekend, we graduated.

With Kirk riding Mickey and me riding Aemelie I asked her to move out and she did so…tenatively.  Right up until that nasty pavement turned black and dark from a repair.  Down went her head and up went her heart rate.

It’s tough work being point!  You have to make ALL of the decisions, not have them made for you and she was quite uncertain about this new responsibility I’ve given her.  She became a different horse out front.  Head down, feet planted, she snuffed and shuffled, feeling more and more explosive with every step.

We traveled several miles this way.  And then we came to the biggest water crossing I’ve ever asked of her.  She bounced and pitched, timid in her approach.  Aemelie doesn’t do mud or water as well as I would like.  She is fine if another horse takes the lead.  She’ll plunge right in, but on her own, it’s a big decision and she doesn’t like to be wrong!

In our herd, Aemelie has an important position.  But she also remains independent by choice.  She’ll walk away from the herd and be left behind and think nothing of it.  She waits deligently for me.  When I come, she chases everyone away so she can be with me.  It’s uncanny. 

So on this ride, Aemelie needed my reassurance.  Which she loves.  If she gets corrected she loses focus.  She’s that devoted.  She hates to be wrong.  It unnerves.

Asking Aemelie to cross the water first was a big step for her.  After 2 miles of weaving, snuffing, pitching and plain old stubborn stops and foot planting, she had her nose in the water.  Next came her feet and then…down she went!

Yep!  Aemelie was sure I wanted her to take a bath! 

Not surprising.  She bows, lays down and does a host of other tricks.  Why wouldn’t bathing be another?

I convinced her that it was my own desire to get up out of the water and she bounded through, never to be plagued by that dirty monster of indecision again.  She raced Mickey and loved it!

Oh the power of graduation!  Aemelie grew up today and she finally got to be my lead horse!  She and I have waited a long time for this and with the pride of a new parent, I took Aemelie home so she could show off her new found skill.

Today she greeted me enthusiastically as she always does and once again I felt guilty about grabbing a differnent horse (this time ShoGun).  Even though she was tired from yesterday she was ready for another romp!  I promised her I’d take her on Wednesday when we’ll introduce another rider to the joys of having a well rounded horse.

Today ShoGun and I did the same water crossing.  This time, he had to take point.  He’s been very timid about this role and we’ve only just begun to explore it but by the end of the day he and I too were both wet, happy and smiling and the little horse we have in training was too.

It’s amazing what a little water, miles and riding will do for the inside of a horse and the outside of a person. 

It was a GREAT day!

May 14th, 2009 ShoGun and Lucy Updates

Among the projects I have started and halfway finished is the answer to many people’s questions.  How are ShoGun and Lucy doing?

They are doing GREAT!

Maine winters are long and full of snow and ice, so ride time is precious during the winter months.  But in the last month I’ve been riding ShoGun and Lucy and they never cease to amaze me with their abilities.

Yesterday Lucy and I engaged in an all out race up Fox Hill road against Kirk on his mustang gelding, Mickey.  Lucy is young so I’ve been careful with not pushing her but yesterday she was ready!  She loves to run and unlike many young horses, she has always run without dodging left or right.  I love it when a horse loves to run and Lucy is the best!  She waited until Kirk and Mickey ran up beside us before she launched into another gear.  She left me breathless and Kirk and Mickey in the dust!  Yahooo!

It was the best ride I’ve had all season!

OK.  I have to be fair.  It was another best ride!  Earlier I saddled ShoGun and we rode like the wind too.  He isn’t as courageous as Lucy, but he’s gaining.  On our rides out I let him sniff until he’s comfortable and then he takes his own initiative to move out, often trotting or cantering ahead.  He takes his environment in one breath at a time and analyzes each one, so I am content for now to let him gain in his confidence.  Sometimes we lead and other times we draft Mickey, the steady mentor gelding who never comes unraveled.

Aemelie is still queen of the herd.  She spends her off time with me pacing the fence and glaring at me.  She really dilikes it when I take another horse out to ride.  She loves working for me and it is the bond that she gives me that I respect.  It is unusual and very strong.  The horse would rather be with me than in the pasture with her mates!  Naturally I feel guilty taking any other horse, which is why I am going to cut this blog short.  I want to get out and ride her today!