Monday, May 31, 2010

Ricky Quinn Clinic~ Day 4

When I got to the boarding facility on the last day of the clinic it was threatening to rain... more. It had sprinkled a little overnight and I was glad that I had a light stall sheet on Mercy because what once was her wonderful skylight was now a leaking hole into her stall. Not big time, but it had a good drip in one spot. Oh well, she was dry! And ready for grain (supplements...)!!!!

Throughout the whole clinic she was very tidy in her stall. She generally peed while she was looking out her door, so at least it was all in one spot. And she pooed everywhere, but she was pretty careful not to stir it in. For being in this stall for four days, minus the few hours we rode or did groundwork, it really wasn't too bad! If I remember correctly, I think I only put 2 bags of pellets in her stall too. That was OK with me; I wanted her as comfy as she could be. She's not use to being a 'stalled' horse, although I don't think anyone would have guessed otherwise- she was so good!
Anyway, time to head over to the arena! When I went in to sit down for a bit before the colt starting started, I found the grey arab and his owner were doing some groundwork to prepare for their first ride. She wanted to make sure her arab was hooked on and paying full attention to her. And only her.
When she asked him to face up, he compied. What had taken Ricky over an hour to do the day before, the owher had within minutes. The arab still wasn't 100% 'there' with her (notice the ear facing backwards...) but it was a VAST inprovement from a day or two before! What a soft eye:

Ricky sat in the audience for a while answering our questions and sharing stories while we watched her work the arab. Finally he got up and we got started. He tacked up the arab and quickly checked him out. Then it was time to ride! The owner climbed up and was told to just enjoy the ride for a while. She held onto the night latch once Ricky started maneuvering the arab around, just in case anyone got off balanced. Ricky asked the arab to give his hindquarters...

...and then his fronts. This allowed the owner to feel what needs to be accomplished in the saddle once they are really riding.
The continued this for a while and then Ricky handed her the lead rope. He instructed her to just move the horse out. He has to be moving in order to ask him to stop. The arab was taking this all in stride. His face remained relaxed and his ears were focused on his rider. Perfect!

Once she had him moving out, she reached down the lead and asked for a one rein stop.

They did this to both sides quite a few times. They were doing amazing work! It was soft and smooth, like they had been doing it forever! This was the point where Ricky asked her to trot. It took a bit to get the horse moving, but once he did it was all business again.

They worked once again on breaking the hindquarters over and getting the feet to stop but from the trot, not the walk. Then they were done. Their first ride was a great success! What a great way for them both to end the colt starting clinic! Congratulations guys!
After a quick lunch, I grabbed Mercy and headed to the arena to practice hobbling before our last ride. As you can see, she was so thrilled! ;)

I put the hobbles on and off three times, all in different parts of the arena, and she next tested them. Yes! She was thoroughly bored with the whole hobbling business, but she participated like a champ! I can't wait to pick up a pair of hobbles soon so we can continue this training.

Once we were done with that, the round pen opened up for us to use. Mercy really hadn't had a chance to move around since being at the clinic, so I let her loose and asked her to trot or lope around for a while. Of course all she wants to do is hook on and stop. Normally that's great, but not when I want her to move! I kept it interesting by asking her to change directions and changing her speed. I finally asked her to hook on (no problem, lol!) and then I discovered an interesting issue. No matter what way she is going in the round pen, when she stops she always places me on her left side. If I tried to walk around to her right side, she would move her whole body to the right to keep me on her left. Hmmmm.
So, I sent her out again and asked her to stop. The same thing. I worked her for a little to see if I could do something to help her, but I ran out of time. Ricky and the other participants were gathering and we needed to get going. I finished up by asking her to follow me and then breaking her over her hindquarters... all without her lead rope. She's so good with that.
We all rode out into the arena and gathered around Ricky, ready to start. We all thought we would jump right back into our exercises and maybe do some more drill, but since there were only three or four of us left (it was Monday and most had to bail because of work, boo...) he said we could work on more individual issues for each of our horses. Each of the participants were going to get some one-on-one time with Ricky to work on what every we wanted. Here is what Mercy and I did with our personal 'Ricky time' the last day of the clinic:
He asked me what I wanted to work on, individually, and I replied loping. So he sent Mercy and I into the round pen. I had been having issues with bucking (way in the past, but it comes up every now and then, briefly) and loping in general still isn't great... Mercy is VERY unbalanced loping to the right and sometimes it takes quite a bit from me to get her going. Once going she tends to take charge and not listen to me when I ask for speed changes or directional changes. Ricky told me to just make trotting uncomfortable for her; that eventually she would break into a lope... making it HER idea. I was not to guide her in any way at first, only hold on to the night latch and give her her reins. I would ask her to trot by leaning forward slightly and gently kick/urge her forward into a trot. Then I would ask her to speed up by gradually increasing my leg actions, making them faster and bumping harder as she got faster and faster into a trot. The second she took a lope stride I was to quit everything and pet, pet, pet her, all the way to the stop. Then keep petting. Ideally she would find the middle of the round pen- this could be one of her 'quiet' places. There we would sit for a while.
Additionally, Mercy was having issues going from a standstill to just moving straight forward, even at a walk. She would immediately want to step to the left or the right when I urged her forward. I have no doubt this is from our reining training. She always thinks we are going to spin from the standstill, so she takes control and doesn't listen to my cues. This exercise helped her find the 'track' on the outside of the round pen. I worked going to the right, correcting her direction only if necessary but otherwise never directing her intentionally. Over and over we found the lope and the track. For over an hour, I urged her forward and pet her the moment she loped. She not only loped out with little effort from me by the end, she also felt incredibly balanced and round! That's where he had us quit for a short break.
While we were taking a break, Ricky had me to maneuver Mercy around so he could evaluate her a little better. We did hind quarters, moving the front left and right, side passing, backing straight, backing circles, etc. I had never asked her to back circles before so she was pretty confused, but otherwise she was solid (to my surprise too!). He said next spring when he comes back to bring a bosal to fit her into! WHAT?! How cool! I thought she would be in a snaffle forever! I never imagined he would say something like that- at least not while I owned her. How neat! I can't wait until next year!
When Ricky asked us to return to the round pen I made the mistake of assuming we would be right where we were when we left the round pen... so I asked her to lope with too much energy at first. She got really pissy and made it clear it was too much too fast- we were still just 'getting it.' After realizing I needed to start over, I asked very softly and again gradually increased the pressure. It only took maybe 5 minutes for us to be right back to where we were the first round pen session, both going to the left and right. That's where Ricky had us quit for good. My take-away message from this whole thing is that I was constantly picking on Mercy's face and never letting her 'just go!' She needs to realize that now I will not always pick up on her, she can move! Just go for the ride!
What an amazing experience at the right time! I highly recommend going to watch or participate at any of his clinics, if you can. I will have Mercy ready to go for next year's clinic for sure! I can't wait!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Is That a Break in The Clouds?!?

Nope, just a brief break in the rain... maybe. Dang. And it really doesn't matter, Mercy has an abscess brewing in her right hind hoof. Luckily it doesn't seem very painful for her. Hopefully it will stay that way. Guess it will be Star's time for a ride if the weather give us even an hour or two.

BTW, I only have one more clinic post and then I will write up a post on our reining show From a few weekends ago! I was trying to wait so I could figure out how to get my video on the computer, but I give up for now. I have pictures at least!

Hope you are all having a great Memorial Weekend!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ricky Quinn Clinic~ Day 3

Ricky got started with the day by working with the grey arab. He was still waiting to see a dramatic change in his expression and concentration when someone works with him. The arab was still looking all over the place, even as he correctly went through the motions Ricky was asking for. He needed to put a little more effort into the relationship.

Just like the previous day, Ricky would release all pressure when the arab stopped away from the gate or looked in his direction. Otherwise Ricky was asking him to move out , applying pressure until he got an appropriate reaction from the arab. While this was going on, Ricky's friend Joel was working his paint colt in the arena. This little gelding is very sensitive and Ricky wanted Joel to rope him everywhere before getting on. Here, Joel had the colt roped by the flank. When he bucked Joel held the rope tight. The instant he just moved out flat and quiet, Joel would release the pressure in the rope and allow the colt to stop.

Over and over again, going both directions Joel continued to work with the paint until the rope meant nothing to him. Meanwhile, Ricky worked with the arab for a good 2 hours. He would offer to let the horse stop and when he did, would try to coax him off of the roundpen track, into the middle of the pen. The little gelding would a least face Ricky now and maybe offer a step or two into the pen, but would never fully commit.

Of course, the pony was paying attention! He was pretty patient waiting for his turn.

After a while you could notice the arab's attention slowly turning more toward Ricky than the outside of the pen. Notice how his ears are more alert toward Ricky than previously:

Ricky walked slowly, but deliberately, toward the arab's hip to try and entice him to turn toward his handler, thus moving toward the center of the pen. Ricky got a good try here:

Time was running out, so Ricky got a good enough try from the arab and called it good. He saddled up and jumped on. After checking him out, Ricky invited the pony and his owner into the pen to join them.
The pony's owner climbed aboard the pony and Ricky, still riding the arab, flagged them around. This allowed the little pony to carry his rider around without having to worry about being pulled on or banged around. She was just there for the ride. Ricky got them moving into many different gaits, focusing on transitions and then eventually the one rein stop. I was video taping for her, so no pics, but they did awesome!

Once they both dismounted and the horses left the arena, Ricky turned his attention to Joel. Ricky had Joel climb up and ride while he directed the horse from the ground. Joel just held on as Ricky asked for the hind quarters and then the front, waiting for the horse to face him.

The colt had quite a difficult time crossing over the hind when traveling to the right. He would start to cross over and then just stop. He got stuck.

Even when Ricky used quite a bit of lead pressure to help the horse move, it didn't really get it. After working at it for a few minutes. Ricky asked Joel a serious question, "Do you trust me?"

Ricky had a brilliant idea that would help Joel's horse understand pressure without using the lead. Use flags! I think Joel was quite nervous because Ricky was going to have him ride the horse loose in the pen while carrying two flags!

Using the flags he could direct the horse without adding any unnecessary pressure. Allowing his horse to move out freely and feel the rider's weight, while being directed by the flags, seems much less threatening to an already sensitive horse. Ricky stayed in the pen for support, but did very little to help.
Joel rode the colt around until he really let down... he was licking and chewing and looking to stop working. That was a great 'breakthrough' ride!

The afternoon horsemanship class started with very little ground work. I actually got into the arena earlier then we needed to because I wanted to hobble Mercy a couple more times before we started. I quickly roped her feet and slapped the hobbles on. It was quite windy that day and the siding on the arena slapped the framing pretty hard every now and then. Only once did it startle Mercy enough that she felt the need to move. Of course the hobbles grabbed hold and Mercy needed to figure it out. Her answer to the hobbles was to rear straight up, come straight down, and then stand. That's ok with me! At least she didn't try running off; I really didn't want her to fall down. I pet her once she calmed back down and stood there for 5 minutes or so. I took them off, did a little flag work with her and then put them back on. This time she stood stock still for a good 5 minutes, so I took them off and let her chill while we waited for the rest of the class to make it into the arena.

Ricky had us review our front/hind quarters and drifting to get started. Then he added something new: pushing the front quarters away after getting the hind, instead of facing up. This maneuver used to be so hard for me to even conceptualize. Now I get it and am not afraid to make a mistake trying to figure it out. Anyway, we didn't spend much time on that; Ricky just wanted to get going on the riding! :)

We bent our horses heads around at a stand still, then added circles and asked for the hind quarters. After we were all going well enough, he had us go to the rail of the arena and walk to the left. As we past in front of him we were to call out "now" as the left hind hoof left the ground. It took me one lap to get coordinated enough to even see it by looking down and feeling her hip move under my hand, but after another lap I could just sit there in the saddle and feel the movement of her hooves through my seat. Then he asked us to feel for the left front foot leaving the ground. I got that one right away because I can feel her shoulder move much easier than her hip through the saddle. My "now, now, nows" were met with "yes, yes, yes" by Ricky. Then we switched directions and did the same thing to the right for both hooves.

Not everyone 'got it' right away, but everyone did give it their all to learn. We were instructed to go back into our individual circles and now apply what we just learned (calling out each hoof) to our drifting exercises from the ground. In order to properly disengage the hindquarters, we were to press our leg on the inside of the circle to our horse's hip as there hind hoof was leaving the ground... all while reaching down the rein and bring the head around. We practiced this for probably close to an hour when we were told to take a break while he explained the next exercises we were going to do to finish off the day. Drill! :)

LMAO! I never saw that coming, even though I should have. When I rode Starlett at Ricky's last clinic here years ago, we did some drill type exercises to put our newly learned maneuvers to the test. The 'drill' we did this time was a little different from then. First we practiced maneuvering our horses in a figure eight using one hand and our seat and leg pressures by holding hands with a partner. I was paired up with a gal and her cute bay mare. Her mare was quite uncomfortable being so close to Mercy, so it was difficult holding hands. We also had issues going the same speed. When I would speed up to match her's, her horse would slow way down. Eventually all of his shifting in speed and direction was too much for Mercy and she kicked out at the bay mare. The bay mare was now afraid of Mercy, so we both just rode side by side with both hands on our reins. I thought that was a good compromise; everyone stayed in control and we were still participating in the drill and learning. Ricky did mention that I need to REALLY get after her if and when she misbehaves towards another horse again. I agree. It just took me by surprise this time. *sigh* Mares... sometimes... :/
Once everyone had had enough of the figure eights, Ricky had half of us start walking around the arena, a little off the rail, to the left. The other group was to weave between the 'circlers' while walking to the right. And both groups needed to keep their spacing, obviously! At first the 'weavers' didn't quite have the spacing down very well. I had to stop or speed up to coordinate with the other riders. We did this for a few laps and then Ricky had us all trot. This made the 'weavers' concentrate on getting to the hind, drifting around the 'circlers' and still maintaining a decent distant between the rider in front and behind themselves. I would be lying if I said it went perfectly. It was chaotic to say the least!
We began to run out of time, so he had the 'weavers' switch to 'circlers' and the 'circlers' switch to 'weavers.' Because the 'weavers' had witnessed the other group, we had a better idea of how to get things done quickly. We walked and trotted the weave for a few minutes and Ricky called us in for questions. What a way to end the day!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ricky Quinn Clinic~ Day 2

Good Morning Mercedes!!! Wake up and eat some hay!

"Oh! What's going on over there?!? Grain?!?!"

I walked over to the arena to sit down and wait for the colt starting to begin and the little guy was tied up in there getting some chill time.

First up was the grey arab. Ricky quickly reviewed yesterday's lessons about hind and front quarters and the jumped up into the saddle. Here Ricky is just asking the arab to move; it didn't matter where, he just needed to move out.

Then Ricky spent more than an hour trying to get the arab's attention off of the outside of the arena and on the inside. The arab wanted to stop next to the panel closest to the area entrance. Ricky made it difficult for him by asking him to move out every time he slowed down there or turned his head in that direction. He made it easy for the arab to slow down on the other side of the roundpen. Here is where Ricky would pet him and slow down his body movements. Once the arab slowed down and stopped in the 'quiet spot,' Ricky got off and called it a day.

Pony was next. He was saddled up right away and Ricky got to working him on his hind and front quarters. Here's the hind....

...And here's after getting the front!

Once Ricky added some speed to get him moving out and practicing transitions. There was a little crow hopping, but nothing serious and he figure it out rather quickly.

After checking the cinch one last time...

...It's time to step up into the saddle!

All aboard! Ricky checked out his hind/front again and then asked him to move out on a loose lead.
While working in the roundpen, Ricky's blue roan mare was poking around. Ricky was saying that she sometimes doesn't like things coming between her and a fence... so what a great opportunity to practice that! The pony felt the squeeze too, but both horses held it together.

Then, once she was out of the way, she found a flag along the roundpen rail. For any ordinary horse who has been flagged many times, this wouldn't be any issue, But she's different. She's been bitten by a rattle snake, on the nose. Because of this she is very nervous about things that move quickly, especially around her face. It could be another snake!

Well, she had a very brave moment. She reached out for the flag! And when it shook after she breathed on it, she didn't freak out. In fact, she went to investigate again!

After the pony put on a good ride he was let out and the paint came in. He was flagged again and as you can see, he was a little stiff. He didn't want to reach under himself very well.

Using the flag, Ricky is able to help the paint to drive deeper underneath himself...

...And bring his front around a little more freely.

Saddling this guy was easy. Wanting to she us something new, Ricky showed us how to get a horse to lead up to the fence for mounting. By bumping up on the lead until the horse swings his hips left, toward the panel, and releasing when he does, a horse learns to associate the bump with 'move over here for me.' The still kind of stiff paint took a while to get the idea, but in the end getting on was easy and he got the point.

When all was good at the fence, Ricky got on and started immediately bending his head around and asking for the hind. A nice first ride. He is so good that Ricky suggests his owner ride in the afternoon class instead of the colt starting class, starting that day!

After our lunch break and getting saddled up (we were promised some ridding time today!) everyone met in the arena. We started with ground work from the previous day right away. Once Ricky had worked with his horse for a while he gathered everyone into the center of the arena and asked if we had any questions. After questions time he asked me to bring my rope and Mercy into the middle of the circle, where he took over. He showed us how to rope a horse's front feet in order to prepare them for hobbling. We were to hold the rope tight around their pastures until they picked them up and allowed you to place them where you wanted without a struggle, then release the pressure of the rope by giving it some slack. If the horse objected, you held on until it tried. If your horse moved, you had your lead rope in your other hand and you simply broke them over their hindquarters, then start again. After demonstrating how to rope their front feet, he sent us out to practice. Mercy has been roped before, so she got it. I just quickly 'walked' her with the rope and waited for our next instructions.
I borrowed a friend's leather hobbles for the next part. Ricky showed us how to put them on and then instructed me to just hold the lead a distance away and let her figure it out, if she had too. After a minute of standing still we were to take off the hobbles and wander around or do something else. When they stand still and don't struggle, the get released sooner. Mercy and I stood there for our minute or so and I took them off, praising her. They went back on after a short break, like instructed. This time she tried to follow me as I backed away and the hobbles tightened around her pasterns. She shuffled her front feet in order to get away, but quickly and quietly figured it out and settled down. I took them off and praised her yet again once she was completely calm. One more time I slapped on the hobbles and this time Mercy remained quiet. What a good girl! Such a quick learner... when she wants to be... :)
Once everyone got a chance to try the rope and hobbles, we started right back into groundwork. We revisited the front and hind quarter work and then Ricky asked us to take it a step further. We were to 'drift' the hinds, without changing directions. Using our leading hand, we needed to bring the lead across our chests toward their hips. This would ask the horse to move the hind quarters faster than the front quarters, as well as drive deeper underneath themselves. Again, this is something that Mercy and I have done. She showed her displeasure some much (facially) that Ricky actually rode over asked about it. He agreed that she was just bored beyond all reason. I asked if there was something I could do to turn her angry faces around and his reply was to give her a job and it will straighten right out. I couldn't agree more. These 'drills' are great, but she's ready to move on, now. I continued to try other exercises with her as the other participants practiced the drift to try and get her entertained... it wasn't working.
Once everyone appeared to get it, Ricky showed us how to properly bridle a horse while haltered. After the horse is bridled, you can easily slip the halter through their mouths and behind the bit to get the halter off. Then it was time to ride!
We only had about a half an hour left until it was time to quit for the day, so we just worked on applying our new (or refreshed) skills from the ground to the saddle. First we started by bending our horses' neck back and forth at a standstill to check out how resistant they were in the snaffles. They should become lighter and lighter the more bends you do. Mercy was quite heavy to the left, but to the right I BARELY had to lift my hand and her head came flying to her side. I know what I need to work on the most now!
After we had checked our horses out at a standstill, it was time to move. Moving in a circle, we would reach down the rein, take hold, and bring the rein to our hip to bend the head and disengage the hind quarters. Eventually, once everyone got that part situated, we were to add a slight kick to the hip as we reached down the rein. This is the cue for the hinds to move over. After we had done quite a few of those, in both directions, we were done for the day.
Ricky told us that the next day would be half groundwork and half riding, so come ready! Yes!

Ricky Quinn Clinic~ Day 1

Ricky Quinn came to Washington April 9-12 for an intense 4 day colt starting and horsemanship clinic. I rode Starlett during his previous clinic in Washington about 5 or 6 years ago, and it was quite the experience then. I was still new to the Vaquero style of natural horsemanship and attending his clinic was a great opportunity to dip in further. This time I learned a lot more because I knew what to look for while watching not only him, but the other participants and their horses. The subtleties in their cues and releases were much easier to notice now that I have had years to study other clinicians and horsemen.

Day 1 started with Ricky warming up his blue roan mare While checking her out, he introduced himself and answered any questions that anyone had for him. Then he got to work with the colts.

A cute little sorrel pony was up first. He was let loose in the arena and Ricky worked with him a bit and finally roping him.
The first task was to check out the little guy's hind quarters; making sure he can crossover behind nice and deep.
After getting both the hind and front quarters on his mare, Ricky dismounted and made sure he could get it from down below too. Once that checked out he saddles the pony up and moved him out a bit; changing gaits, speed, and direction in order to get him to let down.

After finding a good spot to stop, Ricky kicked the pony out of the roundpen and into the arena and in came the next colt, a beautiful grey Arabian. This guy had no interest what-so-ever in Ricky; he just wanted out of the arena. You can see that his mind is everywhere else but with Ricky, even once roped.

While Ricky worked on getting hind and front quarters for the arab, the pony had other ideas...

... *sigh* Ponies...

Anyway, in order to try and get a little more on the handler and not on everything else going on, Ricky worked the arab along the panels by asking him to squeeze through himself and the rails. With respect for space, of course. That took a while because he kept wanting to push his shoulder in toward Ricky. After figuring out that wasn't the answer he straightened out and worked hard to move his hind and front feet WHEN ASKED! He gave a nice try here, look at that stretch on the loose lead!

The arab gave Ricky some decent effort by the end so he was saddled up, moved out, and then kicked out with the pony into the arena. A nice looking sorrel paint was next into the roundpen. Ricky just checked him out, saddled him up, and kicked him out too. The paint was respectful, considerate, and did everything Ricky asked of him.

Once everyone was in the arena, Ricky remounted the roan mare and flagged the group until they sought Ricky out as a group. Then everyone was caught and released back to their owners for a well deserved rest.

For lunch Subway was calling my name. After filling my belly, I headed back to the clinic facility and readied Mercy for the afternoon class. A good groom, some finally saddle adjustments, and we were on our way over to the arena. After everyone introduced themselves and got situated, we were all asked what we would like to work on during the clinic or what we were specifically having issues with that needed help. My issues were getting the lope figured out and getting Mercy hobble trained. Ricky seemed very excited to help everyone and most were looking forward to the hobbling lesson to come the following day.

It was time to get to work. Ricky showed us how to get the horse's hind and front quarters while walking around us in a circle. Mercy and I have done lots of this, so we were really bored. It was good to revisit the basics, but we were ready to move on to new things. Every now and then I would let her take a break and just relax, or I asked her to do some other, more advanced maneuvers to change things up a bit. She let me know what she thought about the whole ordeal- ears pinned, moving as slow as she could, glaring at me, and wrinkling her lips... oh mare.

I don't blame her. That is pretty much what we did the rest of the afternoon. We stayed back in a corner and while 'resting' we watched Ricky help the other participants with their horses. Some of the common issues were having too short of a lead, allowing the horse to crowd you, and/or allowing the horse to get sloppy when changing directions and not really getting to the hind. It was interesting watching and observing the other participants as they 'got it.' Way to go guys!

And that was the first day! No riding and all groundwork. And that was just fine. No point jumping into the saddle until you know the basics on the ground. I was sure excited to start again the next day, and hopefully try some new exercises!