Archive for June, 2016

PostHeaderIcon Fox Trotter Rough Fox Trot-Smooth it Out

A Missosuri Fox Trotter has a lot of options on where to place his feet while moving forward. There might be as many as 12-15 different names for the two forward gaits that are unique to “gaited”horses.

Cisco was born with a bouncy 2nd gait. He was born with a tendency to hard trot. This is the normal trot that non-gaited horses have. We gaited people don’t like that suspension bouncy gait. We gaited people want smooth, non-bouncy.
Bouncy fox trot vs hard trot Discription: If you bounce out of the saddle, you are hard trotting. If you are not thrown up out of the saddle, it is a rough fox trot and might be very close to that suspension out of the saddle. There is a difference between the two but both are uncomfortable.

Fix the hard/rough trot:
1. Slow transition from the first gait into the 2nd gait. Really really slow. In the fox trotter world, we go from flat foot walk to fox trot. Or we might go from regular quarter horse type walk into a fox trot. Or we might go from a dog walk into a fox trot. These are transitions. Cisco is a “what do you want me to do,” horse personality. If I ask for a slow transition upwards, he gives me at least a medium to fast speed. We usually need several upward transitions until my “ask” is light enough for Cisco to be confident to give me slow. Cisco is generous with his giving back to me. Two years practicing along with Healthy Stride farrier work with Tony Vaught has just resulted in a balanced horse with an upcoming slow fox trot. Cisco and I were in a lesson with Erin Patterson yesterday and Cisco fox trotted smooth enough that I was not praying for the command to transition down. This was a miracle day.

2. Practice transitioning to the fox trot. Practice slow transitions upwards and down. We transition from quarter horse walk to dog walk (extended walk in non-gaited horse), to flat foot walk to fox trot, down to flat foot walk, up to canter, down to fox trot (Mucho Difficult). Cisco and I have been doing this for two years and he has taught me a lot about my non verbal signals. Cisco told me just this past winter that he wish my signals would be consistent. He told me a year ago that my non verbal signals were much too “loud”. He throws his head up when my signals displease him. (This gets me yelled at during horsemanship lessons!)

Once you get a smooth fox trot, let your horse keep at it. The more your horse does a smooth fox trot, the more muscle memory builds up in the horse. When the horse gets a little tired, he will find a way to make less effort (smoother) as he tires. There are two theories here. Above is the the let them do it for a while. The other is to reward them when they are doing it right. When you transition down to a stop, rub your horse. Rub a lot so there is no question in your horse’s mind that he did something right!

3. Head position. Every fox trotter who does a fox trot, has the perfect head position in which the perfect fox trot comes forward.

Ava 2014 5 years and over mares. Watch Jody Lynn Jokisch 374 for perfect head position and smooth fox trot. This is a treat

PostHeaderIcon Trust Replaces Fear

It was quite a long time ago.  This might have been five or six years ago.  There was this horse, a fruit loop horse.  She is a sensitive horse and the wrong people bought her.  After six months, she was scared of anything human.  If anything human moved, she was scared of it. She is what Pat Parelli calls a “Hey Bob! Horse.  You are riding this horse.  You wave your arm to say hi to Bob and the horse bolts. Human arms to this horse are things that beat you.  Arms beat you.

I bought this horse after she was ruined.

The Hey Bob horse teaches you not to pick your nose, point at anything or wave at anyone.  Your horse bolts when people near you pick up their arm.  You learn to yell at your friends.  ”Do not pick up your arm when you are near me! Do not flick your reins at your horse! Do not wave at flies on your horse!  Good God, do you want me to die?”  The horse was also claustrophobic around other horses.  We can not get too near other horses.  Soon she taught me to be scared of other horses.  They might kick me.

I rode the Claustrophobic-Hey-Bob-Horse for quite a while until the fear of arms finally got to me.  The bolting was not bad.  The horse bolted and was easily stopped with the reins.  Only once did she bolt out on a gravel road with me.  Hey, it was just once.  When you ride with loose reins and the horse bolts, it takes about a year to pick up the reins and pull back.

Finally when I was good and trained to be afraid of arms, I paid Nichole Hack for her to be trained to not be afraid of arms.  i got her back and the world was good, except any movement on her part caused me to tighten up as a reflective action.  It was OK when I thought about it.  Self, you are not going to haul back on the reins when the horse flinches.  Just let her flinch.  Self, you can now raise your arm.  The horse will not bolt.  Self, if your horse does take a couple forward steps, just know that the stop is just milliseconds away, don’t grab the reins.The horse will stop on her own.  You do not have to haul back on the reins to stop.

Looking at the stories of this horse, her journey back to being a relaxed horse took about three years.  She was totally ruined in six months.  I couldn’t 100% fix her.  I fixed a lot of things, but not the bolting and in the end, I was just as scared of people’s arms as she was!

So when you have this bolting fear, the human body does something that is called cradle reflex.  Your upper body tries to fold into a ball.  Your body leans forward and your legs go back.  In the horse world, this is called “the fall off position”.  One sideways step from the horse and you are in the falling off position..on the way to the nasty ground.

The next horse to come into my life was the Horse of No, Lucky Star.  The Horse of No did not have very many bolting episodes.  But there were some short episodes and I went into my cradle position.  I got to ride a lot without the cradle position happening to me and that was a good thing.

Next in my life is Cisco.  I don’t remember that he did any bolting actions that caused me to go into the cradle position.  But for the first couple of years I had him, I was ready to fold into the cradle position when i saw something that I thought he might spook at.  And he never spooked.

I am quite upset with myself about tensing up and preparing to go into the cradle position.  Stop it!  Why can’t I get over being afraid?  Cisco is not going to spook.  I can trust him.

I came up with the idea that I am not trusting Cisco.  I am not trusting Cisco to take care of me.  Cisco is taking care of me quite wonderfully.  I believe it is time to let this fear go.  I am going to trust Cisco.  I’m not going to gather up my reins when I see something scary. I’m not going to tense my body.  I’m going to keep the reins slack and keep relaxed.  I am going to trust Cisco.

And that was the answer!  You need to realize that you can trust your horse.  You need to ride a horse that you can trust.  I believe that I am over the cradle-fear now.  Thank God.  It took a long long time and two horses to get me over it.

Here is an amazing article talking about the human instinct and the cradle position.  It is a great article and should help you further understand why your body betrays you when riding a horse.  From balanced

PostHeaderIcon Cisco and the Two-Legged Jump

This is a task for the horse in the Level 4 Liberty Test: Jump Over an Obstacle with the Two Front Legs and then Sidepass Over the Obstacle Toward the Human.  (“Liberty” is the human on the ground with the horse loose…no halter or rope attaches to the horse.)

This task is one that you have to sign your name and attest that your horse did this.  It is not a task to video.  Sadly, one has to attest with their signature that this has been done.  I could lie….sigh.

You start this task with a halter and rope, it just doesn’t start out at liberty.  Doing it at liberty is an incredible feat.  Cisco did this for me last winter.  I can attest truthfully that he did it, and he did it at liberty (maybe twice).  But this summer, I have asked him to repeat this tremendous task and it has not happened.  What if someone important in the Parelli world came up to me and asked me to prove that Cisco could jump over an obstacle with his front legs…and then we failed to do it.  I believe this has to be accomplished so that Cisco understands what I want instead of  I got lucky and he did it a couple of times.  I hate having to be truthful!

Here is how Cisco thinks:  Cisco is a “what do you want me to do?”  Move 5 steps, 10 steps, trot…what?”  Susan replies with her body language, “Cisco, I just want you to move three steps forward.”     Cisco replies with his body, “Three steps?  Wouldn’t five steps be better.  I am anxious to please you.”  Susan, “sigh”.

A jump obstacle that is too low is too insignificant to jump over.  Cisco walks over short obstacles.
Cisco’s desire to please and his past development with me makes him think that a jump obstacle that is high enough, like a barrel, needs to be jumped over with both the front and back legs.  I have not found the perfect signal to get his body stopped when the front legs have jumped.

I have placed my body in different places and given him the signal to jump.  Cisco’s front and back legs fly over the barrel.  Or he tries to step over a barrel with his front leg and then gets stuck.  It is difficult to step over a barrel.  We experiment with my “ask” until I get frustrated.  My dreams at night is how do I communicate.  I decide to collapse my upper body as he is going over with his front legs.  Nope.  That night in bed, we dream about it more.  Ok, we will start doing circles with my upper body collapsing so he will figure out that means stop.  And that is what we did for a couple of sessions before a trip, a summer cold and horrid heat intervened.  It has been nearly a month since I last played with and rode Cisco.

In the arena during our warmup ground play, I asked Cisco to jump over barrels.  He jumped with his two front legs and stopped.  Good Lordy!  My body did nothing to tell him to stop.  The body was in the normal position to encourage Cisco’s traveling forward.  I was in shock!  Cisco looked at me with his ears pricked forward. Truly, he was very thrilled to have done this and awaited his praise.  I went to Cisco and praised him.  I rubbed him.  I told him “Good boy!”  Then I asked him to side pass to me over the barrels and he did.

I’m fairly certain that Cisco has thought a lot about the barrel front leg jumping and figured out what I wanted.  It was nearly a month ago.  He tried his theory out this evening and I rewarded him.

We did not jump over any obstacles after that.  I got on and rode him.  He was sensational.  I smiled during the entire ride.  (I might have cursed once when my leg illegally braced when asking for a canter, but that doesn’t count.)  Two amazing things he did this night.  He went from a walk to a very slow smooth fox trot.  Normally, he anxiously wants to please me and the anxiety makes him go faster.  A faster fox trot is a bumpy process and it might even be a real trot which we call “hard trot”.  It causes Susan’s body to be bumped up and down.  The other amazing thing he did was wait for me to give the canter signal instead of canter when my body was preparing to give the canter signal.

I smiled and told Jenny during the lesson, “I love this horse!  He is the perfect horse for me!”  Jenny smiled too and agreed with me!

I’m probably going to have a little trouble now telling Cisco that I want him to jump over the barrel with both front and back legs.  He probably now thinks that jumping over with the front legs is what I want.  I am still going to work on my upper body collapsing when I want him to stop.  No matter.

Cisco is the perfect horse for me.  I love this non-verbal communication process between the predator human species and the prey animal horse species.

PostHeaderIcon I’ll Come for a Visit, Susan and Ride Your Horse

I was like this!! I was just like this. I rode other people’s horses in my young adult formative years. Long long ago when I was in the middle of buying a piece of land in Walsenburg, Colorado, I paid a cowboy money so I could ride his horse. I got his horse and rode out into the dessert. Just me and the horse. I came back and rode around his property, because it was just a little boring out there. The cowboy seemed very very nervous. He said something about his wife being nervous about my riding the horse. I couldn’t understand why. I can ride. I had horses in my age 6 to age 18 youth years. I did not develop fear about riding horses until I tried to ride Sage the third time and she spun me to the ground.
I remember one other time and it might have been during the same time span, I rode someone’s horse in an arena pretending I was going to chase and cow and rope it. We backed up in the shute and burst out, pretending to chase the cow. Oh that was fun.
When I moved to the country, I rode a horse friend’s quarter horse. I cantered around and had a good time on their property. Yee Haw
Turn the clock forward and I started with horses again at the age of 48, When I traveled somewhere, I would find fox trotter people or Parelli students and visit them. I rode their horses. Turns out, the people who profess to being Parelli people really didn’t know the rules. I visited a friend in Phoenix. We rode her fox trotters in Phoenix. I was riding a horse that didn’t understand the signal for stop, whoa, slow down, scream-we-are going to cross and six lane road and you have not yet stopped. The horse was great with kids, cars on the road, bushes, everything, but never learned to stop. People just pulled back on her mouth without teaching her what that meant. I used the snaffle bit on the bridle provided me. The bridle was missing the chin strap. So when my “bend the horse to a stop” reaction occurred, I pulled the bit out of the horse’s mouth. I was riding a horse that did not know how to stop with no bit. Luckily this horse stopped when the other horse stopped. That is the only reason I am alive today. The second day, I used my bridle. I had brought my own bridle with me just in case. At least I could bend the horse’s head around. I rode that horse for three days around Phoenix. About the 3rd day, she had learned to read my body signals and was learning what stop was. On the fourth day, I left Arizona and came home. I no longer ride other people’s horses unless I know them well and they use the same signals to the horse that I use. Consequently, I have not rode many horses other than my own for about 20 years!
I rode Jenny’s highly developed horse once. I was good enough that he did not take off in a gallop. But when I asked him to slow down, my lower legs did not relax. It took me a good long time of trotting around and sometimes cantering around before I could relax my legs enough that he slowed down. My lower legs kept telling him to go forward. I had to fight my legs to relax.

But I digress. I was going to tell you why you can’t ride my horse unless you understand the same things I do.

My horse goes forward when I lightly tense my core muscles. We call this “life up”. I am trying to teach Cisco to go forward when I squeeze my toes. Sadly, I forget to give this signal most of the time.
My horses know to go faster when I lightly press my calves against their side and tense my core muscles.
I do use the portion of my legs from my hips down to my knees for stabalizing my body if it starts to fall out of the saddle to the side.
Here is what we do not do. We do not use our legs from the knee down to hang on. We sit in the saddle on our back “pockets”. That is how we keep balanced up there in the saddle or bareback. You look at those bucking horse/bull riders, they are sitting so far back on their “pockets” for balance that they look like they are laying down on top of the horse/bull.
So here comes someone who has watched TV cowboy shows or rode horses on a dude ranch. The someone tells my horse to go by pressing their lower legs quite firmly against my horse’s sides. My horse thinks that is a signal to GO FAST! My horse takes off. The rider squeezes their legs really really hard against my horse’s sides as a reflex to hold on. The rider’s body tilts forward as a life saving measure. Squeezing the legs even harder against my horse’s sides makes my horse go way faster! As long as those legs are locked against my horse, Cisco will be going fast. I did this once myself when first learning how to ride Velvet bareback. My legs tensed and locked. I knew my legs had locked and Velvet was not going to stop. Sadly, my brain thought it was going to die and it would not let my legs unlock. I had to ride that out and thank goodness Velvet was not a horse that approved of going fast for very long because of some leg pressure!
Thankfully, Lucky Star gets dominate quickly and slides to a stop. No one is going to tell him to canter very far. That isn’t in his nature. So the human is way off balance trying to hunch down into a life saving bend. When Lucky slides to a stop, the human is off balance and will just tumble off…much like what you see when those jumping horses refuse a jump, but the human body is tossed forward.
I’ve seen Velet bolt with a beginning rider and thankfully it ended well.
It has taken me years to figure out what these riders do to cause my horses to bolt.
No, you cannot come out and ride my horses. You must take lessons from me first. I do not have a beginning rider horse.

PostHeaderIcon Life in the Herd

Four Horse Herd is:

Sweetie-Paint mare with nearly no pigment on her face to block sunburn. Sweetie has become best friends with Delta……. Sweetie is low horse in the herd in domination in the herd. Number 4, Sweetie does not let on that she likes or trusts humans until you walk up and pet her. Then she may or may not trust you. I believe she has been a brood mare all her life and has not experienced any close bonds with a human. She did not have any friends in the large herd of horses that she had been pastured with prior to moving to my pasture.

Delta – Fox Trotter bay mare with two back white socks. Delta had been a professional trainer damaged horse in her first life. She came to be owned by a student of Tony and Jenny and over a period of years, brought back to a happy life with people involved. Her trust in humans has to be earned. Delta is #2 dominant horse in the herd

Since moving to my house, Delta and Sweetie have become best friends.

Lucky Star -#1 Lucky Star is the dominant horse in the herd. He runs everyone’s life. Lucky Star is a liver chestnut horse. He loves Delta since they are almost the same color. He usually can be found very near Delta.

Cisco is the #3 horse in the herd. It took him a while to be dominate over Sweetie, but now he wins that challenge every day. He is not allowed to be too near Delta. Lucky does not share his mare.

Now that summer is here, Sweetie has learned to avoid the horrible pain of sunburn by staying in the run-in stalls during the high sun part of the day. Flies are not as bad during the day plus Sweetie’s face remains pain free. She loves that. We have three stalls. Delta and Lucky share the same stall. Cisco and Sweetie stand in their own stall. Everything works. I give them all a little hay during the day so Sweetie will not starve and be forced out into the sun.

Cisco has been boarded elsewhere all winter and has just returned home to stay. Lately, I’ve noticed Cisco and Lucky out in the pasture during the day, eating grass and standing close together. They are swishing flies off each other when close together. Sweetie and Delta remain in the stalls. I believe Cisco and Lucky get tired of the stalls, want to eat more than the little hay I give them and have become a gelding grazing family. Sweetie doesn’t come out and her best friend Delta stays with her. Delta is a loyal friend.

Life is ever changing in the herd.


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