Georgie’s two week anniversary

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George grazing in his paddock. He’s put on some muscle and a bit of weight in his two weeks here.

Prince George is adoptable from the ARL Rescue Ranch. He is at Field Day gaining skills to plump up his resume for a new life in his forever home with a new partner. Interested parties can contact me or Judy Hand

Prince George has been at Field Day exactly two weeks today. He started out the day in his paddock, where he approached me even before I came into it to catch him. (I took this picture of him from the arena, before he saw me.)

Prince George is powered by Purina Ultium

Prince George is powered by Purina Ultium

I’ve had him on two, 4-pound feedings of Purina Ultium for two weeks, actually a little less than that, because it took me a few days to switch him over, so let’s say a week and a half. Ultium costs about 50 cents a pound, so at 8 pounds a day, the relatively large amount he needs right now costs $4 per day. Over a week and a half that is about $40. For that amount, half of what most people pay a month for cable or cell phone, this horse is adding muscle and cover. In another two weeks, we’ll be able to tail back the amount of Ultium fed because we’ll only need to maintain. When the right feed is provided, with proper nutrients as well as the necessary calories, it doesn’t take long to get most horses really looking good and having a chance to perform well. A quality feed simply gets results more quickly because it provides not only calories, but all the other minerals and nutrients needed for proper muscles, bones, tendons, hooves, eyesight, metabolism and probably about 80 other things I haven’t thought of because I am not a horse nutritionist. Purina has tens of nutritionists who are constantly doing research and feeding trials, so I don’t have to overthink it. I just get the results of all their work. Priceless.

Meanwhile, the training continues. I warmed up today and just when I was getting done with that, Megan Clements came out for her lesson and horsie fun. I solicited her to video tape a few minutes of our ride and she was kind enough to agree. The short, raw video is an interesting example of a horse learning his balance. Just yesterday I introduced the concept of yielding to the rein by asking gently in small walk circles. Because it is a new concept and his muscles are not used to him moving over his topline, he has a tendency to come above, then get behind, the contact. He has moments of some pretty decent work, then his muscles get tired and he throws his head or falls slightly sideways in one way or another or breaks gait or gets a wrong lead or even puts in a buck – all minor difficulties to be expected of a horse clearly finding his balance traveling in a new way, and gaining strength. It makes as much sense to punish a horse for these things at this point as it would to punish a human baby for losing her balance when learning to walk. In both cases, it is appropriate to focus on the positive and encourage effort, rather than punish. It is difficult for a horizontal horse to balance a vertical human on his back and it flat out takes practice and muscle.

He is willing and sound. The rest tends to work itself out.

Here comes the video. The “Red/Green Show”-sounding lawnmower in the background is dear hubby Jay, working hard while I play with horses. Bless him. So, without further ado, Georgie’s 2 week anniversary ride:

Starting to yield to the rein

Well, now that George is generally going reliably forward, we can begin to discuss yielding to the rein. I spent 20 minutes just making sure ‘forward’ was reliable today, and it was. Then we did some flexion work in walk on small circles. He is starting to pick up yielding to the rein. Then we did some walk and trot work on larger circles and he was able to maintain softness in walk, but not even close to it in trot. No matter. It will come. On to canter and he surprised me by stretching over his topline far enough to bring his nose down to his cannons while cantering. That’s a great stretch, which is the start of what he really needs. Really wonderful work.

Grazing

George has been working hard the last two days so he got today off, but I did get him out and groom him and hand graze him on the lawn. Time like this is important so that we are not always pushing for something the horse can do for us. Horses recognize when we are doing something that benefits them entirely, and even if they didn’t, it is the right thing to do periodically.

Riding with Eddie

Magee and Eddie at Longview Horse Trial May 2013

Magee and Eddie at Longview Horse Trial May 2013

Prince George is adoptable from the ARL Rescue Ranch. He is at Field Day gaining skills to plump up his resume for a new life in his forever home with a new partner. Interested parties can contact me or Judy Hand

Magee was riding Eddie in the indoor when George and I came in. Magee and Eddie were working on leg yield and shoulder in, which had them going all over the arena while doing their lateral work. It was very good practice for George and I to stay out of their way and to see how he would do when meeting another horse on the rail and just generally being independent of the other horse. He did remarkably well at that and he is getting stronger in his canter work. A very good day.

More for free Part II

In the outdoor to graze and meet some friends over the fence

Glistening from a rinse, George went In the outdoor to graze and meet some friends over the fence

Prince George is adoptable from the ARL Rescue Ranch. He is at Field Day gaining skills to plump up his resume for a new life in his forever home with a new partner. Interested parties can contact me or Judy Hand

I brought him in and tacked him up. He was much more balanced for hoof picking today and stood beautifully in the cross ties. We lunged for a bit and I think he was happy to go because it took a little bit to get him to walk rather than trot. Some cajoling and he was on board. On to trot and canter, which went well. He started to suggest bucking in canter and he quit as soon as I shouted, “No!” at him and sent him forward.

I replaced his halter with the hackamore and got into the tack. We walked, trotted and cantered well enough. He seems to be anticipating being turned sharply, but he cheered up and stayed straight quite nicely when I just continued to canter him in circles or around the arena. We did a fair bit of cantering tonight and his ears were up and he was good to go. The great news is that after a few times around the arena, he took some big breaths and did a few “letting go chuffs” where they sort of snort and relax. This is always a very good sign.

Magee, my 15 year old working student, gave him a rinse afterwards and he was well-behaved. Good day.

The “More for Free” lesson part one

After the workout, we had a nice rinse in the wash rack.  He tied and stood beautifully.

After the workout, we had a nice rinse in the wash rack. He tied and stood beautifully.

Prince George is adoptable from the ARL Rescue Ranch. He is at Field Day gaining skills to plump up his resume for a new life in his forever home with a new partner. Interested parties can contact me or Judy Hand

I was out of town for the weekend, so he got a few days off. Today I tacked him up and lunged him, and he was showing me the buck I have heard about. Pretty non-impressive buck as they go, mostly just lowering the head and straight-legged popping about a bit. Horses, I think, mostly buck because either they are a) seriously uncomfortable, usually from saddle or bridle issues, or b) just plain not forward enough. I knew the saddle was a good fit and the gel pad covered a lot of sins too, and the hackamore pretty much ruled out bridle or bit issues.

So, I figured forward was the problem. After he was going forward enough on the lunge line to look civilized enough to throw a leg over, I did. He was fine in walk, but when we got to trot, after we went around the ring a time or two, he slowly wound down like a toy soldier at the end of a windup, and eventually stopped, raised his neck and pretty much made faces while I bumped him pretty seriously in the ribs. I was thinking at that moment that I probably wasn’t going to get to canter today.

I know that posture of raised neck and making faces ends nowhere good, so I got off, procured a fly whisk and smacked him on the butt with it right after a cluck, so that he would learn that a cluck meant “go forward now”. I repeated the process until he figured it out, which didn’t take long. He feigned ignorance at first (or maybe not, maybe he really didn’t know. But no matter, really, he needs to know.) We spent a little time really understanding the cluck = forward concept then I got back in the tack and things went much more cooperatively:

 

In the tack

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George and I, just chillin’ out.

Prince George is adoptable from the ARL Rescue Ranch. He is at Field Day gaining skills to plump up his resume for a new life in his forever home with a new partner. Interested parties can contact me or Judy Hand

After grooming I put a dressage saddle on George in the cross ties and he was completely relaxed about it. I brought him in the arena and lunged him a bit and it went even better than yesterday. So I decided to swing a leg over. I took off his halter and replaced it with a hackamore, did a little ground work to make sure he was ok with the hackamore, and got on. He was a little squiggly when I first got on, not wanting to stand still. I didn’t bother him too much about it, just not the time to do it, and we started walking around the arena.

He was a little reactive to the bridle at first, especially to the right. I explained to him that he should simply relax and yield and he got on board. I planned to only walk today, in deference to his lack of conditioning. I also like to just walk and let them learn or remember how to balance with a rider on them. I mostly walk around on a loose rein and hum cowboy tunes, but today, I was teaching Megan Clements (ARL Rescue Ranch volunteer). She was riding Sammy in a jumping lesson.

Megan and Sammy jumping  in fine style.    Those are George's ears.  I suspect he is thinking "I can do that."

Megan and Sammy jumping in fine style. Those are George’s ears. I suspect he is thinking “I can do that.”

So I used George as a teaching assistant. He had to turn in small circles a lot to allow me to watch Megan and he had to stop, back up at times, and allow me to get on and off about 8 times to change jump heights or various tasks. He got a lot better about standing still for mounting and he was walking around like an old hand by the time the lesson was over.

Lifestyle note from last night: He didn’t notice that I put his hay in the hay feeder because he was eating grain away from it when I did it. All the other horses came out after supper and ate hay at their feeders in the other paddock. He just looked over the fence and sighed. I walked in to his paddock and then over to the hay feeder. He followed me and you could see the thought bubble over his head when he saw the hay. “Hay. Cool. I was kinda wondering. Dude. Thanks.” I dimly suspect he smokes pot in the run in. I think Charlie, who clearly enjoys some weed on a regular basis, is already sneaking him some from his stash. Yeah, thoroughbreds are just crazy high strung.

The work begins

DSCN1854Prince George is adoptable from the ARL Rescue Ranch. He is at Field Day gaining skills to plump up his resume for a new life in his forever home with a new partner. Interested parties can contact me or Judy Hand

Today was Prince’s first day of training. I caught him easily in his paddock and brought him in to the barn and cross ties where he stood quite well. I groomed him and picked his feet and he stood well for that too. I put a rope halter on him to help him understand that it is best to give to pressure and after a few moments of quiet discussion, he was on board.

DSCN1850As I was grooming, I was assessing his fitness. The ARL does a wonderful job with the horses. However, it must be said that he doesn’t have any muscle definition to speak of and his topline is pretty much upside down at the moment. Proper work will help with that.

I am switching him to Purina Ultium to provide him the fat, nutrients and protein he’ll need to start to build some muscle in the coming weeks. Horses who are fed properly have the opportunity develop properly, both physically and mentally. Good stuff in, good stuff out. 🙂

I took him into the arena and we had a short discussion concerning going forward when asked and keeping his neck low and relaxed while walking. He either picked up on it brilliantly quickly or somebody has helped him with this before. DSCN1849During our work, we passed by the arena mirrors where took a moment to appreciate his handsome self.

Then we did some lunging work, which obviously, he has done before as well. He actually walked on the lunge line when asked. Impressive. We worked in all gaits and he did very well. He slightly prefers his left lead, but the right is quite adequate. The thing I noticed, and it is true in the pictures as well, is that whatever he is doing he has his ears forward with a cheerful attitude. Pretty fun. He tired pretty quickly on the lunge line, but that is to be expected.

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I imagine I will spend the next while just working on communication and adding fitness, but that is never time wasted. A comfortable horse who is up to doing the work and understands what is required is a happy, well-behaved horse.

Prince George comes to Field Day

Prince George does a royal trot around his new paddock.

Prince George is adoptable from the ARL Rescue Ranch. He is at Field Day gaining skills to plump up his resume for a new life in his forever home with a new partner. Interested parties can contact me or Judy Hand

It was a beautiful day for a cocktail party. And watching horses jump fences at the Purina Grand Prix on a summer’s day at Maffitt Lake Equestrian Center was just good fun and getting seriously interesting. I saw my friend Judy Hand, who is the barn manager of the Des Moines Animal Rescue League’s Rescue Ranch, which, by the way, you can like on Facebook. <hint, hint> She mentioned that she had a young thoroughbred that she thought was really something special who just needed a little help in making the transition to his forever home. Maybe I could foster him? I said I’d think about it.

And the horse, who I never met, just kept popping up in my head. In the middle of a meeting, while getting my hair cut, while riding another horse. He just popped up in like a very insistent pop up video. I talked to Jay about it and he said, “Go get the horse already.” Yay Jay.

So I called Judy, filled out the ARL foster application and picked up Prince, who has now become Prince George, George for short. Primarily because he is very sweet and lovable and reminds Sarah Caruso and me of this video:

He took only a few minutes to load in the trailer and off we went to Field Day. I put him in his own paddock and he settled in brilliantly. No whinnying or carrying on, just a little trotting about. DSCN1814Here he is eyeing up the boys. Seconds after this picture was taken, he blithely reached over the fence to get some fresh grass. He leaned in against the fence and I was about to go check the fencer to see that it was on, but then one second later, it became obvious that a) it was on, and b) George had never experienced an electric fence. Yow! The Field Day horses smirked at the new kid, the rats.

A student of mine, Jean Caulkins came out to meet him after her lesson. She started loving on him and hugged him around his neck, which he was all about. Then she reached up to play with his ears, and before I could tell her that Judy told me he was a little funny about his ears, she was playing with them and he was just kept eating his grain. Ignorance can indeed be bliss.

I just let him hang out in his paddock getting used to the place the rest of the day.