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!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Space, the final frontier

Interesting observations on Rigitta's space tolerance. 

When I met her in New York she was bulldozing me with her shoulder.  She was under some stress as she was in the barn isolarted from the mares she had spent the last 2 yrs turned out with.  At that time I made note that when I was firm that she not do it she would stop for a nano second and chew, but I had to continually remind her.

Once she was home it took me only one session with her on moving away from me and not pushing me around with her shoulder.  I have not had her repeat that behaviour but it is tucked away in the back of my mind that it will come back in a stress situation.  I am comfortable though that she understands the signals to step away from me and she aims to please.

So back to the interesting observation.  When I am working her in hand and I am not paying attention she will position herself right at my shoulder about 6 inches away and stands still.  This  is also happening all the time when I take her out of the field and turn to hook the gate.  I do not feel it is a dominance behaviour it feels like an "I feel safe" when I stand close to you.

But it will need to be dealt with as it is not safe for her to be standing that close to me and I will be working with her to be 2 feet away from me and not move  into my space.

Something else that I find interesting is that, without my working with her to do this, she naturally will walk head parallel with my shoulder and walk on a very loose rope without speeding up or falling back.   I stop, she stops, I walk she walks.  I back up she backs up.  I walk towards her she turns away.

Well we will see how much she regresses when she moves to Second Nature farm in 5 weeks or there abouts.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow, Cold...

Gitta and I have taken a break.  I have thrown a lot of new things at her quickly over last 6 weeks so thought to give her time to absorb and just review all the previous work.

We are having lot's of small snow storms and it has been very cold.  This makes more work just with horse and farm care and less time for training anyway. 

I have changed turnout again as I have been worried Cody is not getting enough exercise in the paddock.  So I get more exercise taking Cody up to the top field.  Theo is in the lower field and Gitta and the donkeys are in the paddock.  She is a big fan of the donkeys and all 3 play together and share their hay like BFFs.  Cody seemed much happier tonight when I brought him in.  He did not finish all his hay in the field which means he was busy doing other things during the day in his 2 acre field.  In the small paddock he had not much to do other then eat hay, drink water and hang on the fence.

I brought Gitta and the donkeys in first tonight and Theo decided to go on a tear and was really showing off.  He is taking seriously my instructions to do his homework or Gitta would be getting more points!

Getting ready for each storm is a little time consuming but I am getting enough practice!  The large square bale in the lower field gets covered with a tarp and weighted down with old fence posts.  Small bales need to be taken up to the top field fence line and tarped as well.  All 3 electric water tubs get filled to the top. The barn gates get propped open so the plow can get in.  I put down salt on the sidewalk and the barn apron to help keep things from freezing and melt the snow a bit as it falls.

We are expecting 2 - 6 tonight but I think we are south enough to get just 2.

Tomorrow I leave for the weekend to help MALA (Mid-Atlantic Lipizzan Association), at the Maryland Horse Expo  at Timonium.  It is a vacation for me from the winter farm work.  What they call a busman's holiday.

I am very much needing March 1st to arrive.  12 years with the farm and the winters are getting a bit old.  The adventure wore off last winter with the blizzards and this winter is just a pain in the butt with all the little storms one after the other.  I love this place and am not moving, but boarding out Theo and Gitta each winter and just having the donkey's here and Amy's horse sounds like a good plan.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Clip, Clip, Clip

Nice weekend here with the sun out and a bit warmer.  Weekends give me time for 2 sessions a day with my little snow fairy.  I can review all the previous lessons and introduce new things in 2 short sessions.  This weekend being the clippers and accepting more weight over her back.

I started with the small clippers and as expected she was not thrilled at the sudden noise when I turned them on but was able to run them all over her body.  Did not like the vibration on her legs at all and too ticklish on her ears and nose but by second session in the evening I was able to trim her front fetlocks, her jaw and some of her nose.  But I think she is so ticklish that I won't torture her as she is happy to have her nose trimmed with the small flip razors.  If I need to trim her ears then a little ace I think.  But I left that alone for now.  I noticed for first time she has those white fungus spots in her ears so will need to discuss with vet later in month when annual vaccinations are done.

Putting more weight over her back is fairly uneventful except when I go too heavy she moves around a bit to adjust her balance.  I can stand on the top of the tall mounting block and lay a leg over her and thump her a bit on the other side with no issues and I even make sure I thump her butt with my heel as I take my leg back over her.  I am doing this from both sides.  This morning I tried something different just for something to do and used a long straw bale instead of the mounting block.  I laid my leg over her and asked her too move a few steps forward with a cluck and tap with my foot. that worked fine and then asked her to back up with a slight tug on the rope and the word back.  That was fine too.

Can you tell I am bored and will try anything for some variety?  

The bridling is fine but I am not happy with the fit of the bridle I am using, need to rethink that.

She is ready to be lunged and long lined.  I can tell by her relaxation that she could 'get to work'  if  I had somewhere with good footing.  There is a feel that you get when you know they are ready to just get on with it. Will have to just keep reviewing everything in the barn until the spring thaw!

Her stall anxiety has almost disapeared.  It just occured to me this morning that she is bouncing around less waiting to go out and instead just pressing her nose to the bars.  This has been a big change in her relaxation  and it seemed to happen over night.  Since she sorted out Theo to the back of the bus so she can come in first at night, all that anxiety has gone away.

I have added another clinic to her schedule this year.  July 8-10 for three days  with Andreas Hausberger, Chief Rider of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna at waltzing Horse Farm, Berlin, New York.

Below Theo is practising his handstand to impress Gitta who looks bored with the whole thing.
Photo credit Amy Dragoo.

Theo is getting a work over this weekend so he doesn't feel left out.  Gitta is the new kid on the block, but Theo needs attention too.  He will be 4  April 1st and over the winter has gotten a bit taller and wider...yes he has more of a chest now.  Very elegant young horse  He is getting more bone all over and his head is looking more like his daddy Rampal.  Theo pics below:

Cody got a trim and a fresh roach to his mane.  He is really bored having to be in the paddock with the donkeys and not getting enough exercise.  But I can not trust him to be out with the other two and they fight over the fence if I use the top field even with the electric on.  Cody makes it tough on him self though he can't help himself.  Once he goes off to his new job in the spring he will be much happier.  Cody pics below.
First Photo Credit goes to Susan Stickle at HoofPrints Photography.  Second Photo Credit goes to Pics of You.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Plastic bags, done and dusted!

6 days and Gitta is over the plastic bags.  Not a new record for her, just status quo.  I hope that as time goes by her adjustment to new things takes less time, but at least when she is over it she is over it.  She stood and yawned. Amy took pictures, so if she sends some to me I will post them.

I am going to try working on 2 things at the same time this next week,  the noise of clippers, big ones and small ones and plastic bottles.  I really am going to end all this with being able to open and shut umbrellas around her and walk around her with one over my head.  Sounds silly doesn't it but happens all the time at horse shows with spectators.

Now believe it or not I have been doing all this desensitizing with Theo too just for fun  and so he doesn't feel left out. I can't get anything to bother him, he just wants to eat everything.  I'll bet the umbrella would get his attention though.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We are about 90% there with the plastic bag on the end of the whip.  Quite good with it this morning.

Tried on her new blanket.  Very smart looking.  She takes a 68 in the Dover Rider's International brand.

Another snow storm on the way tonight and they were all frisky waiting to come in.  Theo and Gitta both doing passage  along the fence line.  I scored Gitta a 10 and Theo an 8, he needs to do more homework.  He says she cheats.  I say sour grapes.

Gitta has solved the whole coming in from the field problem by discovering if she just stands at the gate first she comes in first.  Theo has been sent to the back of the bus.  She is still the last one to go out though in the morning.

I can't do much about her antsy behaviour when she is in the stall, but she understands that when I open the stall door to come in she is to back up and be still and wait.  She is very consistent now with this and I only need to remind her if something outside the barn gets her attention like this evening when Theo was still out there snorting away. She does reconnect back to me right away with a sharp word and signal to back up and be still.  Same applies waiting to come in from the field.  Once I am in the field she is to stand still and be quiet for the halter and moving out of the field and into the barn.  She really turns off the anxiety as soon as I am in the field or the stall.  So she gets it.  Good girl.

I have found her to be predictable in that she does not like to be rushed and have things move too fast.  It gets her worried and reactive. But she comes down from the anxiety quickly once I go thru the reconnection routine. The slower I go the slower and more relaxed she becomes. Keen was like this too in the beginning but able to take a lot more stimulus as time went by.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Good second day with the bag on the whip...worked her with it 2 x today.  Still stuck in the barn doing everything though with the snow on the ground.

Good with bridling too.

Plan may be that I continue with the ground work in March over at Second Nature Farm and then have her on training board for April/May.  Being backed and ridden is not going to be an issue for her, it is having her be relaxed and obedient as things happen around her. I get a kick out of working with her, she really is easy even when she reacts to something, she goes gah! and then freezes.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The noise of plastic in the morning

Introduced the plastic bag on the end of a dressage whip this morning.  I knew even though she was now used to the plastic bags in my hands that doing it a new way would mean starting all over.  She is not connecting the dots yet.

I started up the scale of what she knows already before doing the new task.  The towel all over her, the crackly plastic sheet all over her, the plasitic bags in my hands all over her...all was fine.  Presented her with the bag on the end of the whip and predictably she was alarmed, so slow work and I just asked her to accept one task.

My goal was for her to stand still as I waved it up and down beside her on both sides of her.  It took a slow 20 minutes with lots of breaks to decompress before achieving the goal.  She had to learn if she tried to move forward away from it that I would back her up, if she tried to back up away from it I would bring her forward again.  I left her alone if she moved sideways away from it so that she had one way of "escaping".  At the end of the 20 minutes she didn't move and was calm as I repeated it on both sides of her.

Then I gave her a good grooming all over, that she loves, including her face so she could feel all warm and fuzzy with me again.

The old saying of wash, rinse, repeat and change the shampoo brand daily works for Gitta.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More of the same

The bit I ordered for Gitta came and it is much nicer for her.  A 4.5""  Happy Mouth. it is the straight one with the nubbys on it. The 5"' split rubber snaffle was too much bit for her mouth.

I tried the Duet on her and fits her great, lots of room in the gullet.

Also bought her a blanket as I will need to clip her long coat before she goes to get backed the end of February.  That is next on the list, getting her accustomed to the noise of clippers.

Still working with her on the plastic bags.  She doesn't like the noise, but settles quickly.  Kind of goes e-w-w-w gross when I take them down her legs.  Does not threaten to kick or strike me at all.  Just lifts her leg up and away from me.  good girl!

Monday, January 3, 2011

All good with Rigitta.  ground is still bad so I still can't lunge But she is wearing a saddle and bridle in the barn and I can go over her with noisy plastic bags.
Today was day 2 with the noisy plastic bags and that went lots better.  I was swinging them at her all over, while she poked in my pocket for treats.
Had great acceptance of the bridle today.  She took the bit 2 times like a lady. 
She is a total love bug and eats up all the attention.  When I leave her stall she always pushes her nose out to say come back! 
She is fun to work on the rope. I can now move her all around by wiggling my fingers at her shoulder, side or hip all on a loose rope.  She hasn't plowed into me with her shoulder since the first week.  When she is startled by something I am introducing her too, my corrections with the rope keep getting softer as she is really, really understanding my hand signals and the vibrations on the rope.  I no longer have to have any tension on the rope.  She totally knows that if anything really fightened her she is allowed to "escape" and will not be trapped.  That is so important for horse trust that they know that they would be allowed to "flight".
I call her my watch horse as she doesn't miss anything when she is turned out...always on watch and attentive to anything going on in or outside the pasture.
Am going to keep on with the plastic bags for another week until all the flinching stops and then will move to a small tarp and then the milk bottles with gravel for a week then I can hang things off of a surcingle and she can wear it all in her stall.

Working on trust

Been spending time with the bridling as she is not fond of that.  Daily 10 minutes of repeat, repeat, so that she will relax and just open up for the bit.  Some horses take awhile and it is about gaining trust.  She does like to vote on things and have her opinion.

Also introduced crinkly plastic bags to her.  The first time I crinkled them she was aghast and alarmed but in ten minutes I was rubbing her all over with them nose to tail while making loud crinkly noises.  It probablly helped that when I showed the bags to Theo, she watched him play with them and make the crinkly noises himself. 

She has a consistent intitial reaction and acceptance time  to new things.  I am gettting a much better idea of how to introduce things to her and how much time I need to spend for acceptance.  I want her to be already introduced to these things before I put them on a surcingle and lunge her with them on her or have her in her stall wearing them on the surcingle.

I will have the milk bottles with gravel in them next after I am sure she has accepted all the plastic bag work.  What I learned with the Nokotas is that if they react to something you keep going with whatever it is until they stop reacting and then take off the pressure.  But each horse has different pressure tolerances so you need to be watchful to know when they have started  to accept so you can take off the pressure before reapplying it. Some inital signs are a slight drop of the head, a slight movement towards whatever it is or a sigh.  It can be very faint and knowin gyour horse well helps you see the signs.

No hurry , as I have 2 months before she goes to be backed.  Plenty of time to work on all this slowly with her.