About Me

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USDF Region 1, United States
Rigitta is a 2005 Lipizzan mare,(Pluto II Dixana x Rheia), that I finally found Dec 2010 after a 2 year search for a Lipizzan. Many adventures and new found friends later, Rigitta and I begin our partnership and eventual dressage competitive career. Rigitta has not been started yet so this will all be from scratch just like my 2007 Dutch Warmblood, Cedar(Theo), has been. I am an over 50 Adult Amateur Dressage competitor. I am a supporter of the Nokota Horse and have owned several. ... www.nokotahorse.org ... Amy Dragoo is helping me with my Blog photos. Majority are from her. ... AK Dragoo Photography, LLC ... www.akdragoophoto.com ... You can follow her Blog here: http://akdragoophoto.squarespace.com/view-all-posts/ ... Also a shout out to Sarah Casey and Waltzing Horse Farm Berlin, New York where I got Rigitta ... http://www.waltzinghorsefarm.com/ ... Make sure you click on "older posts" at the bottom of the page to see everything that has been happening since the beginning of the adventure!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Connection routine for stress situations

Photo Credit to Amy Dragoo

My farm sitter/stall cleaner is staff photographer at the Daily Local newspaper in West Chester.  My horses get in the paper a lot.  Here are Gitta and Theo from today's paper.

I am on vacation until Jan 5th so I am taking advantage of the extra time to do as much with Gitta as I can in spite of the snow on the ground.  Gitta's 6 year old incisers are coming in and so I have stopped with putting on the bridle since her gums are sore.  Snow on the ground so can't lunge, so working with her in the cross ties rubbng her with plastic bags and all the desensitizing things I can think of including clippers.

My main emphasis though is in having her connected to me when she is not with the other horses.  Her main stress times in the day are coming in and out from turn out.  I cannot do much about her anxious behaviour in the stall waiting to go out or on the other side of the fence waiting to come in.  But I can influence her behaviour once I am in the stall or in the pasture.  And it is about waiting and not rushing in or out.

I have already taught her the connection routine in the barn surrounded by all her friends and now I am asking her to do it when she is in a stress situation.  This has always been so important to teach all my young horses so that as we go out in the world and something stressful happens,  we can run through the connection routine until they feel safe, calm down and relax. It is a familiar routine they know, are very comfortable with and never fails to put me back in control.   The connection routine I use is very simple and it can be done in any sequence of moves.

Move shoulders away from me crossing over in front, I can control the number of steps but it is usually one step, and a pause before asking for another.   Basically a turn on the haunches is what you want.

Move the hind qtrs away from me...turn on the forehand. a step at a time.

You have to start out tapping them on the hip or shoulder but once they understand you can get very light and just wiggle your fingers at their hip or shoulder to get them to move.  To control their steps, you need to half halt them with your body, they absolutely will see you do this and feel it on the rope.   This is why I call it the connection routine, they must start watching you and feeling you and not what is bothering them so that they know what the next instruction is.

When I wiggle the rope, back up.  when I give a light tug on the rope come forward... control each step.  Again I halfhalt through my body like I would on their back to control things.

Walk next to my shoulder when I stop she needs to stop, if she doesnot I send her back a couple of steps.  She will now stop when I squeeze my hand on the rope and drop my shoulders.  do this walking on both sides.

It is a very simple routine that lends it self to a lot of repetition and changing up the sequence of everything.  If you are going to show your horse in hand, all these things will be very useful doing the triangle pattern.

Now back to her turn out stress triggers and how I am dealing with them.  She is the last one to go out and the last one to come in.  When I open her stall door, I shake the halter gently at her chest until she backs up, I half halt my body so she will stand still.  I put on the halter, give her a treat and then we do a few repetitions of the routine in the stall. When she is quiet and attentive Then it is time to leave the stall. I will stop her at the entrance, ask for a step back and we do this all the way to the gate.  She has to work for her turn out.  It went beautifully this morning.  When we finally worked back and forth trhough the gate a few times, I took off her halter and she just stood there for a few minutes so I could scratch her.  She absolutley will, with more time, stop the turn out anxiety, because she has to do her work first, and I never allow her to bully me out of her stall.

Coming in tonight I decided to spend a lot of time with  her in the pasture around the gate area doing the routine, including walking past the open gate and walking with me away from the gate.  That was hard for her, but with a few treats and my asking her firmly to move her shoulders away from the gate and walk away, she was fine.  Since she already knew the routine I was not asking her to do something she didn't know how to do, I was asking her to do it when she would have preferred doing something else.  A sharp "Gitta" with my voice when she wanted to refuse got her attention and that I meant it.  It really took very little time before she was running through the repetitions at the open gate.  When all was calm then it was time to go into the barn...work for it baby!
I just felt so good about things tonight.  When we got into the barn, I was able to get her to stop and stand half way in her stall, back up 2 steps, come to me 2 steps and stop.  totally connected and listening and being very patient.

She is not a dominant horse so this process works well for her and I.  She wants to be good and she wants a leader.  If she was a very alpha mare, that needs to lead it would be a lot harder, but since I know I do not get on well with alpha horses, I never knowingly buy one.

There is another good "game" to do with them that will also help with the inhand showing.  Draw a line in the ground or put a dressage whip on the ground in front of them.  They are not allowed to step over it until you invite them and they must go back over it when you say they must move back to the other side.

You do not need to be a Natural Horsemanship person or know Parelli to do this.  It is all common sense and patience.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow Queen

Very nice and polite coming in tonight, left the other horses to come to me for her halter.  Smart girl.

Kelly the OTTb I had here rehabbing left for his next stop on his way to an eventing career.   Him leaving Ruffeled everyone's feathers and changed cody's turn out buddy from kelly to the Donkeys but all was calm by dinner time.

This photo credit goes to Amy Dragoo,   Gitta is chasing Theo off camera.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow and more bonding

I  am glad that we only got 5 inches here in Coatesville.  45 minutes east got 2 feet!

So my turnout had to change around to deal with the snow, which ruffled Gitta's world a bit but gave me another chance to get her to bond with me and not be so herd bound.

She spent the last several years out with the mare herd where I got her, but she had a lot of handling the year she was inspected.  She was not alpha in the mare herd but she was alpha in her age group in the herd.  When I take her away from my other  horses she gets worried and feels isolated so I spend as much time as I can with her where it is just she and I and it is getting better.  She is the last one out in the morning and the last one in at night.  I spend time with her doing the natural horsemanship stuff I know, she and I have a little routine now that gets her focused on me and not where the other horses are.

Today the way I had to turnout meant she would be the second horse in.  I brought theo in, her pasture buddy and she stood by the gate until I came for her and she took off up the hill to the fence line where the other 2 were.  (Looking lovely at the trot and canter I might add!)   I called her but she was loathe to leave the other 2 and come down to me.   I turned to leave the field and walk into the barn and when she saw me walk away she came flying back down to me stopped and was very still while I put on her halter...progress!! A good scratch, a treat from my pocket and she was tuckd into her stall for the night. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Training update

Bridle and saddle went on in the cross ties earlier this week...non event...possiblly Sarah did this with her when they were prepping her for her inspection 2 yrs ago...or Gitta is just not bothered by it.  I can lay over her back and stand on the top of the mounting block over her and she doesn't move, but it is in the barn and on the cross ties surrounded by her friends.  So need to try it in the paddock.
What she is really not happy with are the plastic bags and the crinkly rain sheet  I am sacking her out with.   so more of that for sure.   The big towel  that does not make noise doesn't bother her, so it is the noise and the wiggly trailing surcingles of the sheet.    
She was lunging for me in just the halter earlier this week in my small paddock.  And then a couple days later in surcingle and bridle
It is all fun and I liberally use carrots and treats through out all the sessions.  She gets 3 training sessions a day.  In the AM for ground manners when turning her out,  she has to mind me as the last one being turned out and not worry about the other horses.  I repeat that when I bring her in at night as the last one in with some time in the paddock on the lunge. I keep the donkeys in the paddock so she does have some company and lower the stress level for her. Then after everyone is in and fed she gets her session in the barn with desensitizing and tack.
She no longer tries to bulldoze me with her shoulder.  I dealt with that very quickly and sternly early on.
She is very sensitive and reactive so I measure what I do and give her time to process things.  When she drops her head and leans her head softly into me I know she is saying, either.. okay I get it, I need a break or that something really worried her and she needs a break.  I really can feel her energy change when she does that.
I feel like a beautiful partnership is growing that I have not experienced with another horse other then Cody.  Theo is so independent and hard to read whether he really cares about me as a preferred companion in horse terms or I am just a food machine. 
I am so glad I have her!!!!!  There is the Lipizzan side of it of course but it is also who she is in her soul.  What a perfect fit for me!

Other musings...
update on my Nokota herd.
I sold Keen this summer to a lovely lady in Central Pa who lioves him to death but not interested in participating in Nokota promotion activities.  But at least another Nokota out in the world in a good place.  Cody did me proud at 2010  BLM in Lexington with a personal best at second level and won the class, third in another second level class and a good position in the middle of the pack for the First Level BLM.   He gave me everything he had, but it is time to stop torturing him.  I have found him a husband horse lease situation where he will live like a king for the rest of his life, but again they are not interested in Nokota promotion activities.
this is the end of the Nokota years for me I am afraid.  It was a great run, lot's of fun and experiences I would not otherwise have had but needs to come to an end, they are so much work to get started and I don't have the time any longer.
I am going to continue to sponsor the Nokota class forever as long as people want to bring their horses.  It is such a great party day and draws Nokota supporters in so it needs to continue.  I hope someday you can come and join the fun.
As I approach 60, I am downsizing to 2 horses that are better suited to me for my equestrian aspirations

So I begin the Journey!

I am starting this Blog for Rigitta since I am sure my friends are tired of getting e-mails from me about her!

Rigitta ( Gitta) is my 2005 Lipizzan mare that I searched 2 years for and found in upstate New York  December 2010.

I also have a 2007 Dutch warmblood by Rampal named Cedar (Theo) and I will mention him in this blog as well, but mostly this is about Gitta.

She needs to be started in the spring.   Many, (not all), of the Lipizzan breeders I encountered in my horse search rarely started their horses, which was one of the many challenges I encountered in shopping for one.  Not many had been backed yet and if they were they were way out of my price range.   After 2 years of looking for everything on my tick list, I decided I would need to become more flexible or it was never going to happen.  I am also a lot more educated on the breed now and had another Lipizzan breeder helping me locate suitable horses on the east coast.  There are less then 1,000 in the US and majority are on the west coast, so it has been like looking for a needle in a haystack.  She recommended this horse from all the photos sent to me by the owner and it was love at first sight!  She was up in northern New York, 5 hours away.

The list I started with was:
15.1 or taller
5 - 7 yrs old
Under saddle
Modern Dressage gaits
Suitable for older amatuer
Suitable for combined driving

What I got was:
5 yrs old
Not backed
Modern Dressage gaits
Suitable for older amatuer
Suitable for combined driving
I think she has all of the important things!

 I have lost 15 pounds and working on another 15, so I won't look like a barrel on her.   I had gotten to 178 in October and that scared me, I was so uncomfortable at Lexington BLMs.  I have just changed my eating habits, especially not eating after 8:00 PM.  I am finally down a size so feeling proud of myself.  I am also doing Pilates 2 x a wk.
Theo has the winter off, just turned out, so I can buy my Lipizzan rather then spend the training fees.  Rigitta and Theo go to Anecia's the last weekend of February.  Anecia will start Theo up and then when Dorie is ready he will have his 3 months with her, then back to Anecia's and then hopefully to Blue Rock.  I will talk to Jenny about a stall mid-year.  Gitta will stay here at the farm over the winter of 2011 and then hopefully she can be at Blue Rock too in 2012.  
I start with a plan anyway and modify from there!  I have not figured out where/when the driving fits in yet.  I know who I am going to have train her to drive and it wil be after she has been undersaddle 2 yrs but have not thought much a head of that.

Major things on her calendar this year are below.

SRS Clininc at Four Winds Farm end of July

July 30/31 Morven Park VADA/NOVA breed show

Hits on the Hudson East Coast Pony Cup

4) East Coast Pony Cup Champion and Reserve Champion and ribbons to six places to the
highest combined scores of the two rides for each division. Champion and Reserve Champion
have mandatory mounted awards with prizes to be determined. Rider must ride both classes in
level for championships, ie Training 2 and 4 and declare Adult (over 18) and Youth (18 and
under). Championship will be divided between

BLMs and GAIGs and Dressage at Devon
BLM’s will be hosted by ESDCTA at  NJ Horse Park, Oct 13 - 16 and Regional GAIG Championships will be hosted by VADA at Lexington, VA on Oct 20-23
I will be there for both doing Training Level, qualified or not, with Theo and Gitta.
DAD plans for Gitta are to do the three 6 yr old U/S with her, me riding...6 yr old mares, suitability and Material and then the Lipizzan IBC.  Theo for the 4 yr old U/S classes with Anecia up, no KWPN IBC for him,, because of his turned out feet.  Waste of an entry fee and he needs the U/s stuff more anyway.
So very exciting to start planning the journey to those 2011 end of year Shows for both of my  young horses.