Embrace the fluff!

In the winter we blanket our horses to keep them cleaner, and dry. But it’s also very important, especially here where the winter is 6-8 months of wet, cold, muddy… Oregon. I blanket typically from November to May. It’s important to get their blankets off a few times a week to brush them but also to take the blankets off completely for a few dry days to let their skin breathe. This helps them get muddy, roll, get all the itchies and to let their coat FLUFF!

Horses coats aren’t meant to be flattened like the blanket does. Their natural response to elements is to fluff out. This means their coat looks like it’s standing on end. It’s a good thing! That’s what keeps them warm and dry. Yes they’ll be mud muffins but nothing a short brushing with a curry comb before putting the blanket back on won’t hurt.

Remember, when putting the blanket back on, NEVER put it on a wet horse. Make sure they’re dry. If you do blanket a soggy pony, you are welcoming bacteria to breed, this causes rain rot and their hair eventually falls out and it’s painful to the horse. So it’s best to avoid all that and if it’s raining, they don’t have their coat on, it’s ok. Wait for the next dry day.

It’s not a “head set” it’s so much more!

Softness is sometime commonly referred to as a “head set”. Which is like comparing oil to water.

A “head set” is forced, uncomfortable to the horse and achieved quickly. and incorrectly by forcing the horses head “down” which isn’t down at all it’s a stiff neck and hollow back and pinched throatlatch.

Softness is first achieved on the ground, preparing the muscles and showing the horse what we are expecting and helping the animal move correctly and comfortably first before ever asking them to soften under saddle. Softness takes conditioning, consistent release when they’re doing the right movements and short rides so we don’t make them sore. Just like humans they’ve got to get used to working new muscles also. Be patient and all good things come to those who wait.

Once the horse learns to carry themselves correctly without a rider then we put the surcingle on, a very soft bit they like, I prefer to use copper Snaffles. Then with just the inside rein tied loosely to the surcingle let them travel normally like this so they get used to the feeling of just the loose rein on them. Reverse and switch the rein always to the inside bend of the circle. Once they’re used to that just bring in the slack on the rein and send them back out at a walk first then a trot I never do this at a lope. Then little by little tighten it so they feel the pressure and find the release on their own JUST AT A WALK. Don’t force speed until the horse is very soft at the walk and dropping their head and carrying themselves with an inside bend. Then introduce the trot and don’t tighten anymore. Only tighten to where the horse feels the pressure and starts seeking for the release. When the horse rounds out it’s back and drops it’s head he will realize what is being asked and will start to soften.

Once softness is achieved from the ground then we apply inside rein and squeezing with our legs to ask for softness. Your legs will get tired fast. End on a good note and release at the slightest effort. The next day, do your groundwork again the same way, easing the horse into softness then once achieved, saddle up and review until the horse gets softer and softer everyday.

Softness at the lope is the hardest part it will all come with time don’t worry. Once the horse is ready to add speed they’ll let you know. They’ll be very soft in your hands and ready to “level up”.

Be patient this doesn’t come right away it takes months sometimes years but that’s how you get a quality trained horse v.s a forced and rushed horse.

It’s the best feeling after all the hard work and the horse is soft at all gaits and happy. My horses do it now just slight pressure of the inside rein and slight leg (depending on the horse).

First achieving softness on the ground on their own to build up the muscle needed before progressing to the next step
This is Jordan as a yearling. She’s been taught to carry herself this way for years so her muscles are used to this carriage.
Now with the surcingle, loosely connected to her mouth no contact and emergency quick release to the d ring on the surcingle.
Slightly more contact and that’s where she found her softness so I didn’t tighten it again. Always at the walk first, let them get used to it and find the release themselves.
Soft under saddle at the walk we don’t Fukushima speed until the horse is walking, inside bend, and dropping its head with slight pull from the rider. I prefer just wiggling my fingers.
Inside rein, inside leg, demonstrated here.
Note the roundness in the horses neck this is what it should look like from the saddle. Adding leg and pushing into this frame will allow the horses body to round out also and engage their hind end.
At all gaits eventually you want to see them consistently look like this with your inside rein and inside leg, releasing immediately pressure once the horse gives
Here is my gelding Leonard, he’s more conditioned and advanced in his training. Here we are demonstrating the softness achieved at the lope.

Welcom home Jordan!

I raised this baby as a weanling to yearling. I sold her to a young friend of mine. She did a great job training her and giving her a phenomenal foundation!

Jordan’s story is a rehabilitation story. She fractured her sesmoid bone in her right rear ankle. Bless her heart her mom went in with the surgery to remove the fragment. The surgery was done at OSU and was successful. It’ll be a long rehabilitation process but the vets were optimistic on her full recovery.

When I got Jordan home she had been on 4 months stall rest so she was pretty amped up. First stage was to put her in my stall with access out to my sand arena so she can run a little to get some energy out but not enough to hurt herself.

The next step after she got used to being able to go out or back into her stall without being a wild woman. It’s time now to move her to a bath that has flat pasture so she can move, have friends and get stronger. My pasture is just to slick and steep hills.

Once at the barn she was stalled at night, turned out during the day for a few hours to transition her to fresh grass since she hasn’t experienced it before. Shes always been stalled.

She’s sound enough to right lightly to start conditioning her back to normal.

We lunge daily, lots of trotting and a little loping. Riding, we just jog snd work on bending both ways. She’s very stiff. Everyday she gets more Kimber but that’s a process as well. Having her in pasture loosens up her body as well.

Thank you for following her journey!

She will never be for sale.

The day I picked her up
The day I picked her up
She’s so big my two horse slant is a one horse lol
Enjoying her turn out at home
Much needed bath to get the itchies off!
Her suite at home until she moved to the big barn with flat pasture to be a horse for the first time with friends and strengthen her leg.
Daily lunging! She’s still very stiff but everyday we work more on flexion and gets better little by little
First ride together! She’s stiff, worse to the right but that’s to be expected. She gets better everyday!
Working on softening her face and body, achieving that inside bend to both sides has helped her so much!
Third ride together, soft, supple, great inside bend to both sides!
Very happy with her progress! Rehabilitation isn’t just one part of their body it’s all parts physically and mentally.
Soft to a feel and happy expression! She’s happy to be back into light work 🙂

A look back at 2017

Showing my Gypsy Vanner Zena at county fair, one of her first shows under saddle, she surpassed all expectations and won so much all week! Including trail, English, western and reserve grand in halter! She was a mare I bought at 12 days old, raised, trained and sold when she was 6 years old to a loving family.

Our training journey from April, his first day with me to August when he had his first ride!

Sam is my 8 year old recently wild BLM mustang gelding. He’s only been interacting with humans since February.

Training Sam has been a big challenge because he’s spent so long in the wild doing his own thing, listening to a human isn’t something he was taking to easily. We bonded, continually bond daily and I have had to customize my training methods for him specifically. He’s cam but very reactive so I focused on practicing Exercises that promoted him to use his thinking side of his brain instead of his reacting side. This took the longest because his reacting side has kept him alive his whole life now he has to learn to not “run now, look later”. Once he was thinking more and more I started to lay over him and eventually sit up. I chose to do this without a halter or bareback pad just him and I. No force, no restraints. He trusted me but I had to trust him just as much.

Once he was used to me sitting on him, rolling all over him, sliding off both sides of him, it was finally time for his first ride! My fiancé helped me. My training methods require a rider and a ground person at the first stages of riding so the transfer of control from me on the ground to the person on their back. I always have something familiar when I’m introducing something new. The ground person helps for added comfort and confidence for the horse until the horse gets used to the rider giving cues. The rider will ask them I’ll help enforce the cue from the ground so the horse is never confused then once they do as their asked it’s big time praises. This helps the horse become confident and relaxes as well as look forward to riding the next time.

First rides are short just a few steps then every time after, it’s a little more but this way the horse isn’t overwhelmed.

A happy horse is a reliable horse!

First ride on Sam happened yesterday!

Two hours of prep, patience and making sure Sam was calm before moving into the next step.

Sam has never been worked with by my fiancé Adam so I first had to get them trusting each other then he started to lay over him then Adam lunged him then finally he jumped up like I do and sat up. We stayed at this point close to half an hour just letting him and talking to him. Sam started falling asleep which is a perfect sign to start moving up to the next stage. The next thing on the list was to take a few walking steps and then end on a good note. I don’t push them their first ride I like them to know they did a good job and we aren’t forcing more. Four walking steps with a rider may not look like much but for a horse that has been wild his whole life, 8 years and less than a year in captivity, also only with a human (me) for 4 months, its HUGE!

Anything can happen in the first steps. Standing is easy I teach all of my horses to stand and accept new things way before being ridden but getting them to walk with a rider can be scary and weird for them. The riders weight is strange and feeling the human moving as they walk is all new. But I do a lot of ground work to prepare Sam for this day and it went very well!

I choose to start all of my horses, especially mustangs, bareback. They are more reactive and they do best bareback when they can feel the rider. Saddles add a gap in communication between horse and human so first rides are best with less 🙂

Unedited, raw footage of first steps and the dismount with Sam standing quietly. The approach I took to achieve the first steps was for Sam to follow me because he knows that well. He did just that and I’m very proud of him.