Feb 092018

By Patty Wilber

Judith and John Huchton’s Ms. Atti and Indy had some fun last weekend.

On Friday, we hauled down to Peralta to work cows with Ed Krause.  Both horses perk their ears when the cows come into the arena.  Indy wants to be more aggressive, which can be fun.  Atti is more level headed and doesn’t tuck her butt up under her if the cow behaves unexpectedly.  Both are making progress.

I am going to start using the flag here at home a lot more often to see if we can increase our rate of progress.  I would really like one of those programmable flags so I could just follow it and not have to mess with the controller in my hand while trying to manage the reins.  Perhaps an upgrade is in my future!

The flag is on a string and the horses will track it back and forth. A remote controller in the hand moves the flag–unless you have a programmable machine that will run the flag on a pattern for you…I want that right now.

On Saturday, those two horses, plus Cometa, me and Jim, joined the Pecos Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen for a ride in the Galisteo Basin Preserve. We had 19 equine and 16 riders.

Photo by Elisa Bohannon. Indy is the last horse in this picture. Three of us are not in the shot.

I often like to be at the end of the line if I am on a young horse to try to keep out of trouble.  This was Atti’s second trail ride with horses she didn’t know and I wanted to keep her comfortable.  Turns out I need not have worried.  When the horse ahead of her gave a wild spook and later a big buck, Atti barely even raised her head. And as we walked, she poked along back there, not seeming to care that her slow old walk didn’t keep her caught up.  We worked on increasing her walking pace, but I often had to suggest that she go ahead and jog to keep up.  That is a a much nicer problem than a herd bound horse that coils up in panic if the animals ahead of it get two horse lengths away.

After lunch, I planned to switch to Indy, but I had to talk myself into that because riding Atti was awfully relaxing.

Indy does tend to get herself in a bunch that feels like all four feet are close together underneath her, ready to explode off the ground.  Granted, this rarely happens, but I sure don’t care for idea that she may be contemplating the possibilities.

I did ride her and ponied Atti and it all went well.

The Dynamic Duo, in sync.

The end of the ride. Neither Indy nor Atti was afraid of the big tank and the creaking wind mill! I liked the color and composition of this  photo, but upon closer look, I also like the action.  Atti is guzzling with a wide open mouth and Indy is busy trying to bite Elisa’s horse!

Sunday, I roused the girls bright and early.  Wait, make that dark and early.  Breakfast was in the trailer and they ate on the way to the New Mexico Buckskin Shaggy Show.

The last show was a bit of a disaster because Atti completely stopped cooperating and Indy was busy being in a bunch contemplating those possibilities. Atti has had an attitude adjustment since then, but should she revert, I had my back-up (literally) plan. For Indy, lots of warm up was on the docket.

Indy got long-trot lunged around the perimeter of the whole arena and back again.  The idea was to let her get some energy out while allowing her to see every corner and sign and gate.

Meanwhile, back at the trailer, Atti was doing her best to derail my strategy by ignoring her tasty bag of hay hung enticingly inches from her mouth and instead crying in desperate loneliness for Indy (who naturally was compelled to answer), and REARING, repeatedly.  Fortunately, some friends kept an eye on her while I tried riding Indy.

And after a lap or so, I gave up on riding we did more lunging.  And then I finally rode.  And rode some more.  Apparently, this horse is one of those that needs a LOT of warm up.  By the time she felt showable (over an hour later), I retrieved the neglected (her words, not mine) Atti and ponied her off Indy all around the show grounds and the arena until it was time for the first class to start, and then I tied Indy and rode Atti while that class was conducted. We were in class two. Whew.  I think I could have put another hour to decent use. Last month Atti was overwhelmed by the show environment.  This month, (except for the trailer mania) she was really settled. I did not lunge her at all.

Our first class was the cow class, boxing.  The horses were fine and we kept our cows on the back fence, mainly.  I lost my technique a little when I got in a hurry, but both horses placed in spite of that.

The next class was Ranch Riding with 17 horses.  This is the class in which Atti bailed on me last month.  This month she in went in there and pretty much rode to her training.  There are definitely kinks to smooth out, but she readily executed the whole pattern and put in a nice effort!  Indy had one big hesitation/ spook, but the rest was really smooth and I felt it had a nice flow and some really nice transitions.  She got a 6th!  Then she came back to place 2nd American Stock Horse Pleasure, 2nd in Ranch Rail and won Walk-Trot trail!

Atti earned a 4th in open trail against some very seasoned competitors by maintaining a super nice rhythm over two sets of lope-over boxes.  This was not something we had practiced much and I was thrilled that she just loped over the obstacle without changing speed or attitude.  She made it feel easy.  (Indy, in contrast, got her feet all confused and had to break to a trot and swing wide on a circle at that spot).

Then came the American Stock Horse pattern with Atti.  We walked in and got to the trot sign and she announced, “I am DONE!”.  I dismounted with the judge’s permission and we employed our back-up plan by backing from there to the extended trot sign, where I remounted.  We rode the rest of the pattern just fine. I was actually glad that she decided to have a go at quitting so I could remind her that the attitude adjustment program is in effect EVERYWHERE.

I put her in two Western Pleasure classes for experience on the rail and while her head position and overall frame were not competitive, she held a nice pace at all her gaits, was happy and picked up both leads promptly and correctly.

That was a LOT more productive (and fun) than the last show, and a nice diverse three days for the girls!

They got Monday off!





  • EMoonTX

    Hurry for the Attitude Adjustment–obviously working well–and hurray for the judge who let you demonstrate that location doesn’t count but attitude does. Happy for you (and them.) Do you think she’ll ever get over that pokey walk or is that a factor of her conformation and not just her attitude? Or is it not a problem in her proposed future career? Loved the pictures from the trail ride. On the flag as signifying a cow…how fast do horses catch on to that? On a Facebook group I’m on, someone posted about an experiment in Norway where horses learned to touch a symbol to indicate if they wanted a blanket, if they wanted the blanket they had on taken off, or if they were OK as is. I followed links and read the original article. Well thought out and well done.

    My “student,” after several days of loafing because I was sick (still am, but not as), needed a couple of backings-up yesterday in her ground work. “Oh, you really *mean* don’t forge ahead of you while being led?” was one, and “I thought whoa just meant slowly creep forward one hoof width at a time…” was the other. She doesn’t *hate* backing up, but she’s not fond of backing more than five or six steps. What she really doesn’t like is standing STILL. We’re working on extending the length of standing still. And having her grasp that ending a standing still period is at the option of the trainer/future rider, not the horse. She “creeps” very delicately (more delicately each session.) It would be possible to think it was cute, the way a three-year-old kid will sloooowly reach for the forbidden cookie. OTOH, no. She did, after the backing-up thing twice, stand still for a full ten-count (previous session, five count was maximum.) And the panicky response to merely seeing the dressage whip is gone, and she’s now moving haunches away when I point it at one side or the other. Progress. Tomorrow, the saddle fitter.

  • Patty

    I am on a quick break from a tour group I am leading around the college, but the pokey walk is related to her relaxed approach (that is become the norm as opposed to the resistant side). She can definitely learn to walk faster.
    Enjoying the Mocha progress! Back later!

  • Patty

    On the flag, some horses get it immediately, and some have no interest at all. It seems to be in good part genetic. Like border collies who want to herd vs. terriers bred to hunt rats. One can use standard training to improve their response, but it is way more fun with a horse that just gets it right off the bat!

    I read that article about the blanket study. Pretty interesting.

    Not wanting to stand still is a tough one! LT was like that as a younger horse. I recommend tying them for an hour or two every day. They do learn patience and for LT if I tied her first then rode the others, I found she was more in a frame to learn and listen.

    Using the whip to pet then sure seems to go a long way to changing their minds about the purpose of the whip. I am also am amazed at how if I am consistent, they learn to read my body language in regards to the whip. If I am soft in my body, the whip is not instructional, but if I am upright and exude energy (as if it were some sticky substance??I think a different word there, but you get the idea), then the whip has a meaning related to movement.

    I am interested in the results of the saddle fitter! I have 6 western saddles–all very different and some are supposed to be very good brands and I swear none fit as well as I would like!