saddlebred

Update on Fiz’s training!

Fiz has been at a professional trainer since March 25th. He’s there almost through the end of April. There have been some big changes in his life during this time period. He is used to living in a pasture, and only coming in to work, then going back out. He lives in a stall the majority of the time at the trainers place. He is used to being worked only about 4 days a week. He is getting worked 6 days a week at the trainer. He’s used to amateurs who fly by the seat of their pants and lack professional training knowledge. Now he’s being worked by a professional who has a clearly defined training method and structure.

Today, April 14th, he’s been with the trainer for about 2.5 weeks. I got to ride him for the first time since he has been there. Cindy rode him on Saturday, and had a really great ride. I would like to talk about some of the things I noticed with her ride, and some of the things I learned during mine. I will also talk about some of the training advice we have gotten and how it differs from the ideas we previously had.

First, let me say this. He is much improved in several areas. Below, I’ll take you through the gaits and what advice has been offered for each.

#1, The Walk
Flat, straight, and patient. Make him walk straight up into the corners and make the arena square. Make his shoulders and his hips walk inline with each other, and make sure as you are walking to push him up to the bridle so he has to take ahold of it. Do not pull. Hands steady, and in the same spot. When he takes hold, give. Just a small release of your fingers, but keep pushing with your leg making him walk up to the bit.

#2, The Trot
A country pleasure horse needs 2 trots. The pleasure trot and extended trot. We knew this, but previously Fiz would get mad when he was asked to go faster and he would break into a canter without ever actually going faster. It’s better to have only one speed than have to break, so that’s what we used to do.  A pleasure trot needs to have energy, it needs to cover ground, but it also needs to save room for max trotting speed at the extended trot. Same principles apply as the walk, use a lot of leg, push him to the bridle and make him take hold as he moves forward. Music to my non-equitation body type and mind frame was, let your legs hit him in the sides and even flop around on him some. Apply pressure, keep him moving forward and pushing from the hind end. He is expected to move from the back to the front, pushing off his hind to give his front momentum. Always keep the whip right against his shoulder.

When you ask for the extended trot, cluck, then squeeze (don’t kick) and if he doesn’t move on, give a slight tap with the whip on his shoulder. Not a whack, a TAP. If that doesn’t do it, growl at him and tap again. He has learned that he has to move on and not break into the canter. That doesn’t mean he will never break. If he does, don’t stop! Keep cantering. Teach him that it’s more work to do the wrong thing than the right. Rest assured, he will find his trot after enough of making him go and go, and you will find the sweet spot where you have hit max trotting speed before he has to canter. If you really want to find good separation, work him at a pleasure trot, then extended trot, and bring him back down to a pleasure trot. Even if just for one rail, you try to find that max speed, really ask him to step up, then come back down to the pleasure trot. Keep the energy and the go forward all the time. Do not forget about contact with his mouth (keep this in mind at all gaits) and do not forget that reward of giving when he takes a hold on his bridle and moves on forward. Always give him that reward.

#3, The Canter.
His canter cues are more clearly defined and he is learning the expectation for getting and keeping the correct lead both directions of the ring. Previously, we thought each time he took it wrong, we should stop and ask again until he got it right. This method had taught him if he does it wrong, he gets to quit. The new method is, no matter which way he takes it, do not let him stop. Make him GO. And go, and go some more. Teach him that just because he does something wrong, he does not get to stop and quit. He’s working no matter what he does, and again, it’s going to be harder when he does it wrong.

The canter cue needs to be very clear. A slight turn of the head (bring the rail rein straight back and at the same time give with the inside rein with a release of your fingers), rail leg, and SPEAK the word “Canter” to him. Speak the word EVERY TIME you ask for the canter. Do not be afraid to be vocal. IF he runs sideways when you turn to canter, DO NOT let him canter. This is unacceptable behavior that will be punished by forcing him back to the rail and to walk straight, and patiently, until he is asked again for the canter with the clear signal. This could mean setting him up to canter multiple times, but never allowing him to actually take off. Set up to canter and then go back to straight walking forward on the rail until he doesn’t get all sideways and crooked. Then maybe trot. Do anything else so he loses the train of thought to anticipate cantering.

When cantering, he is capable of cantering SLOW.  Take back on the upward motion, and give on the downward motion.  Give and take, constantly.  And still, SAY the word CANTER, or make a “kiss” sound to him.  Make him canter straight, and do not let him swing his back end to the middle, because this makes it easier for him to swap leads.  If anything, turn his head more toward the middle so it makes it more difficult for him to swap leads or fall out of the canter.  When he does it right, don’t push the issue or make him keep on going. Maybe one or two trips around is good, then quit on a good note.  Remember, make it EASIER to do the RIGHT thing.

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Bottom line is, he’s going to make mistakes. The most important thing is to teach him that it’s easier on him to do right than to do wrong. Bad behavior is punished by harder work. Good behavior is rewarded by giving (releasing your fingers) in the bridle and getting to be finished sooner because he did everything you asked and he did it correctly.

Always ask yourself the question: “Am I training or am I un-training?” and if you are not certain, it’s probably the latter. If you can answer that you are training, follow up with “What is this teaching him?” and as long as you are happy with what it is teaching, stick with it. If you’re not, change it up. Think ahead, have a plan, and execute that plan.
Another thing we’ve been taught is that he needs to jog. And jog, and jog, and jog. The more fit he is (which is accomplished by miles and miles in the jog cart) the easier it is going to be for him to do the right things, the easier it will be for him to be able to willingly go forward and move on. We can’t ask him to run a marathon when he’s been working as a sprinter.

Check out this video clip after his first week of training.

A Short Video from Professional Training

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Trail Ride Numero Dos

I read somewhere that show horses take to the trails like ducks to water, and I can honestly say that I believe that more than ever now.  We went on another great trail ride, this time at Taylorsville Lake State Park, with Mary Jo and her terrific seasoned trail horses Romeo and Cruiser.  I got to ride Cruiser, so that Cindy could take Fiz out on a real trail since she wasn’t able to go last time we went.  We had tougher trails including some rocky inclined paths, narrow paths, and trails by the road.  Our boy was a champ, and just went on like it was no big deal.  Our American Saddlebred is a perfect example of the versatility and willingness of this breed.  So before I go on running my mouth about how incredibly proud I am of our horse and the fact that he is simply amazing, I’ll just put some pictures from our ride down here and call it a day.

Show Season is coming, SOON!!!

So, our first show is less than a month away.  KASPHA May Classic, we will be showing Friday night in the Novice Rider Country Pleasure and the Novice Country Pleasure.  Novice is defined as not winning more than 5 blue ribbons at a rated show, which, neither Cindy, I, nor Fiz have.  Don’t judge us, it’s a very competitive sport!!  Anyway, we have begun serious training to prep for show season, and show shoes will be put on very soon, prior to show numero uno. The winter hair has been shaved off and the shedding blade is being used before and after every workout. We are very excited about show season this year!  In the mean time, enjoy some random videos of Fiz from this winter.  

Science Behind Training Aids?

We have visited training aids and their uses before under here, and have talked about the use of light chains and other devices on horses feet as a method of helping develop a desired gait.  Again I want to state that there has been a lot of controversy over the use of these and some people call it cruel.  I disagree, noting that proper use of devices can be safe, and also beneficial and helpful in training.  I recently read an article on TheHorse.com associating “leg weights” with rehabilitation, physical therapy, and assisting with building muscle.  A study has been conducted proving that the use of such devices indeed do not harm the horse.  I could have told you that, but there’s never really been any documentation to back this up. Now, there is!

Read the article on TheHorse.com and see for yourself!  Leg Weights And Rehabilitation.

That said, I reiterate that you MUST apply the chains/weights correctly or you are going to cause your horse harm.  Do not apply them so tight that they dig into your horses skin, and don’t apply them so loose that they get stuck around your horses hoof/coronary band/heel bulbs.  They should freely move around the top of the coronary band and pastern, but not so much they sink down and get stuck.

See there, us Saddlebred people are not so cruel to our horses after all with our training aids.  Most of us actually pamper our horses and treat them better than we do ourselves.  We live for their well-being and safety.  Just remember that!

It’s a new day

After a really long weekend, Fiz and all of his stuff have finally gotten settled in at his new home at Hunters Brook Farm.  At Hunters Brook, many things are going to be different from his old home.  Instead of being out on pasture 24/7, only getting fed hay in the mornings in winter, and not having an option of being inside, there are many new amenities we will enjoy at the new farm.  Fiz will be fed as much hay as he wants to eat, he will be fed grain twice daily, he will be inside in a stall during bad weather, he will be outside as much as possible when the weather is nice enough, and he will enjoy working in an indoor arena as well as outdoor.  He will have complete full care, and he deserves it.

He will also be surrounded by many other animals that he did not get to see at the old farm.  There are chickens running all around the farm.  There are also goats, cows, and mini horses.  He seems most interested in the chickens and the goats.  Once the farm owners see his personality, they will decide who they should try and turn him out with.  Hopefully he will find some friends on the farm. I am sure there is at least one horse on the farm that he can get along well with.  He needs interaction with other horses, and it will be very good for him once a good match is made!

We are very happy about our decision and look forward to spending more time at the new place.  So far we have been very pleased with them.  They purchased the hay we bought at the old place, and they let us bring our cabinet full of Fiz’s stuff (bridles, saddles, harnesses, and equipment) and our jog cart to the farm.  We are grateful for the new farm and are happy we found such a nice place for our boy to live.  We are very happy he is getting the daily attention and care that he is very much deserving of and we are looking forward to seeing if and how this type of care will change his appearance and demeanor.  I am sure there will be plenty of pictures in the future of him at his new home.

It’s a new day, a new adventure, and a fresh start.  Again.  It’s a good thing.  🙂

Here are some pictures of Fizzy at his new home!

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Dental Day!

Most people don’t realize, horses need dentists too.  Their teeth never stop growing, and the way they eat causes their teeth to develop jagged edges and different issues, making bridling and riding them painful if it’s not taken care of.  It also makes chewing difficult if the teeth get really bad.  Horses with bad teeth will not be able to chew well and they can lose food out of their mouths, causing them and their owners to have to work much harder to get the amount of nutrients needed to maintain a healthy weight.

We wanted our guy to be pain free, and have no excuses to be angry in the bridle or develop any weird issues due to trying to compensate for his mouth hurting.  So, we had a dentist come and float his teeth.  It’s called floating, but it’s essentially filing down all the jagged edges where the teeth are smooth and even inside the mouth.  Equine dentists also remove teeth that are troublesome.  Fiz did not need any teeth removed, but his teeth were pretty sharp.  Dr Adrian Robertson of Bannon Woods Equine came and floated teeth for us. Here she is with her assistant, working on Fiz! Fiz thanks her for his smooth, pain free mouth and so do we!

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What a weirdo

This horse is SO funny.  He has such a personality.  He is the sweetest, most affectionate horse.  However, he does some really weird things sometimes.  I’m not exactly sure why, but he throws his head back to where his neck and head are literally in a straight line.  I have never seen a horse do this before in my life.  He does not do this when you ride him, only when out in the field or in a stall and sometimes while standing in crossties.  Pay attention, one day, you might catch a glimpse of this craziness!!!  Check it out below.   Seriously!?!  What is this!?!?!

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*****UPDATE*****  We now have VIDEO evidence of this strange quirk our horse has!!!

First Western Ride

JUNE 6, 2013.  Primarily Saddleseat girls, we don’t pretend to know much about anything having to do with western. However, we were able to get a western saddle rigged up on Fiz and we each got to take him for a spin! He seemed receptive to everything, and didn’t mind the squeaky western saddle all too much.  Doesn’t he look good in teal?  

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Happy One Month

After we had Fiz for one month, we decided to take a comparison picture to evaluate his condition.  In the month we have had him, he’s been given the world, considering he is the only horse we have to worry about.  He has had personalized care, private pasture, hay, grain, and veterinarian care.  A picture speaks a thousand words, so here is that comparison shot.  In the bottom shot, you can still see where the hair is growing back after it was shaved to do an ultrasound on his “bulge” that we had previously written about.  He is on the right track to where we want him to be. 🙂

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