Tag Archives: training

On the trails again. Finally.

Moving has a way of taking up all the free time.  As a result, the horses were not getting used much and we certainly we not doing any trail riding.  However, since our 14th anniversary was Wednesday and we didn’t really do anything special, I decided Anna and I would go trail riding today.  We arranged for a babysitter to give us a block of kid-free time.

Saturday evening, we took Mack and all the kids hiking in the woods behind the house to scout the horse trails.  Pachaug State Forest is the entire rear of the property line.  The first direction we went, we encountered a creek.  So, we reserved course and headed off through the woods.  30 minutes later, we arrived at the gravel road into Pachaug, but there was no horse path to get there.  Clearing the trail of enough branches to not be constantly hit in the face would take a lot of work.

This afternoon, once the babysitter arrived, Anna and I headed back into the woods on foot to cross the creek.  The path to that point had clearly been used as a riding trail, so it was much more promising.  We took a couple of hand tools to clean up the trail as we went.  30 minutes later, we had found the horse trails we were looking for and cleared a sufficient trail to get there.  We scooted back to the barn and saddled up King and Calli for a ride.

Off we went.  Until we got to the water (which is only about 2 minutes down the trail from our barn.  10 minutes later, we still had not gotten Calli to cross the water, so we went back to the barn.  We put on her halter under the bridle and went back with a lunge line.  This time Anna rode King across (for probably the 15th time) and held on to the line to Calli.  It took some encouragement, but success!  We left the line there and continued on the ride.  It turns out, Pachaug has a lot of water right now.  The good news is, Calli didn’t refuse any more water crossings.  In fact, as we returned home an hour later, she didn’t even hesitate where we started out.  That was actually surprising, because it was the largest of the water crossings at about 12′ across.  Our little loop was just under 3 miles.

I went back out after we untacked and spent some more time improving the trails.  I believe it was actually a driving path in the past based on the size.  So, overall, it was a very successful day.  Calli got comfortable with water crossings and Anna and I got a trail ride in.  We are planning to take all the kids out on Tuesday.  It’s time to start logging some serious mileage if we are going to be ready for Alex and Vicki to ride a hunter pace this fall.

Training Calli #2

This week, all the glorious snow melted, leaving nasty annoying MUD!  We have been working on catching up on manure management (it’s amazing how much the snow hides) which always takes up more daylight than expected.  This afternoon was set aside as a trail riding day.  We had some friends come over with 3 of their horses, Alex rode Precious, Anna rode a guest horse, and I rode Calli.  One of the friends rode Milo.  Vicki was at a friend’s house, so Devil and King stayed behind.  The ride turned out to be a lot shorter (distance wise) than expected, which I will explain below, but I was actually in the saddle for at least 45 minutes.

First the good.  Calli was the lead horse for the whole ride.  That is a significant step forward for her.  There were 3 other horses in the group that she had never seen before.  Usually, she is very nervous about unknown horses behind her.  Today, she seemed agitated that we were not pushing the pace enough and definitely wasn’t afraid of the horses behind her.  She did, however, make sure they knew not to travel too close by pinning her ears and swishing her tail.

Another big step for us was, I rode Calli without her Glove boots.  We rode across gravel and she didn’t take a single soft step or try to avoid the pressure.  While I am not quite satisfied with the concavity in her hooves and think she will continue to improve, I am very happy with the improvement so far.

Calli didn’t run away when I was unsaddled. Which, leads to the bad.

The bad.  When we got out into a big open field, all the horses got nervous. In fact, Alex couldn’t get Precious to cross the boundary from the trail to the field.  As I was watching Alex work through that with Precious, Calli started to focus on something across the field, probably 200+ yards away.  I am guessing it was deer just in the edge of the woods.  I didn’t see exactly what set them off, but I think Calli went first.  She spooked and reared up.  Since we were on a slope, I already had Calli standing uphill while I watched Alex.  As Calli’s head came up, I came forward in the saddle to prevent pulling us over backwards on the hill (I have a history of King going over backward on top of me, so I think I over-react when I think the horse might go over backwards).  The result was, Calli’s head slammed into my jaw, which stunned me severely enough that I didn’t have a chance of staying in the saddle.  I recall trying to keep my seat, but I was just stunned enough that I couldn’t (like when a boxer gets hit on the jaw and slowly hits the mat).  Of course, the ground provided another impact.  I’m not exactly clear on how I hit, only that I think it was a left shoulder roll, into a lower back/tailbone impact, followed by a head slam.  I wanted to jump right up and grab Calli, but I was still stunned and it took a minute.  When I looked around, 3 other people were also dismounted, but it was because as all the other horses started to spook, they were able to emergency dismount and land on their feet.  Calli didn’t run off, and stood quietly for me to remount.  She looked a little confused about why I was off.  I’m a little sore, but don’t think there is any significant damage.

Training Calli #1

I have decided to document my journey of training Calli in our blog.  First, I will do some review of the history with Calli.  Calli is a 2007 TB, but never raced, was bred as a sport horse. She is actually eligible for the Rheinland Pfalz-Saar registry.  When she was 3, Calli was sent to the UConn equine program where she stayed for about 18 months.  It is a very traditional, large boarding facility where the horses primarily stand in a stall.  She then moved back to her owner (breeder’s) house;  I don’t know how many of Calli’s bad habits started at UConn and how many she figured out after moving back home.  In Feb 2012, I went and met Calli for a test ride because we were in the market to replace Cinder.  There were a lot of red flags about Calli: the owner would not let her kids anywhere near Calli, Calli pinned her ears at me on approach, she kicked me while picking her feet up, she was awful under saddle and refused to move forward, and essentially had no trail riding exposure.  We quickly decided Calli was not the horse we were looking for.

Fast forward to late June.  We had been continuing to look for the right horse, had one on lease that didn’t work out, and kept thinking about Calli.  What drew me to Calli was she was so young, that if I could fix the poor behavior, I would have a very athletic, young horse to work with for a long time.  So, in early July, we picked up Calli and brought her home for a lease.

I want to stress, that Anna and I both have many years of experience with horses and felt we could handle the training requirements for Calli.  We also had very clear conversations with the kids that Calli was NOT kid safe.  Calli would be tacked up in a stall whenever kids where in the barn and kids were not allowed in her paddocks.

The next day, I trimmed her hooves.  Calli had been barefoot for most of her life (another plus).  I believe she had shoes for a while at UConn, but I never saw any nail holes in the hooves, so it is possible she was never shod.  After a trim, it was time to get to work riding.  Now, right before I walked up to the barn to ride Calli, I got a text from the owner that Calli “was acting up when putting the saddle pad on.”  That was kind of curious since horses generally respond the saddle, not the pad.  With this tidbit of info, I groomed Calli (who was definitely showing significant attitude) and put a saddle pad on her back.  She immediately tried to kick me by kicking forward with her hind hoof.  I took the saddle pad off, and started to work on an attitude adjustment.  Eventually, we saddled her up and went to the arena for a ride.

Since that first ride, we have made a lot of progress.  I quickly figured out, MOST of Calli’s behavior problems were escape mechanisms.  Calli is very smart and had figured out that when she misbehaved by pinning ears and trying to bite someone or kicking out, it would scare people and they would leave her alone.  As soon as I showed her that I wasn’t scared and established that I was dominant, she gave up on the behaviors.  She still goes back and tries again sometimes, so we have to reinforce those lessons.

About a month into our trial of Calli, we bought her.  She has been regularly trail ridden (we try to do 60% trails, 40% arena) and even did a hunter pace.  I have taken her to a jumping lesson, where it was clear that she has some baseline experience in jumping.  Her body condition is very good, and so now, we have to figure out what our training goals are, and how we are going to accomplish them.

Anna and I decided we wanted to try some of the Parelli training methods.  So, we got a subscription to Giddyupflixs and ordered some horse training movies (thanks to a recommendation from a friend).  While Anna and I don’t watch a lot of tv, we have decided that we will spend more time watching videos about things we care about (horse trimming, training, riding, dog stuff, etc) instead of the “reality tv” shows that plague cable (storage wars and shipping wars are the latest ones we found ourselves wasting time with).

Goals for Calli (in no particular order):

1. Cross any water hazard on trail rides.

2. Back up under saddle.

3. Flying lead changes (this one is a long way off).

4. Stop freaking out and breaking trailer ties, halters, and other things when tied to a trailer.

Maybe tomorrow I will be able to carve out some time to do some riding.