Training TANGO and CORKY ~ Training PRETZEL

Sunday, February 3, 2013

It was way too cold to ride today, so I just free-longed both horses in the arena (with Pretzel also, of course!). I worked some more with Pretzel's gaiting - making him keep his head up. We have been working on this for the past 2 weeks, and he is keeping it up really well now. He is starting to hold his head slightly sideways, looking up at me while gaiting. This throws off his straight line. I am not sure what to do about this. Hopefully I can get some help this weekend. We leave Friday night for Indianapolis, Indiana for a show. Can't wait!

Monday, February 4, 2013

I braved the bitter cold and the snow-covered roads to go ride tonight. Once I got moving, it wasn't half bad! Tango was feeling pretty good, he initiated a couple half-hearted bucks at a few of his canter transitions. Hey, as long as he kept going forward and taking the correct lead, I'll take it!

Tango is starting to anticipate a bit at the walk. I think I need to do more walking in between gaits. I tried something new tonight - I cantered figure-8's with a simple lead change in the center. It worked great! He took the canter right away, and nailed the correct lead every time. I think this might be a good exercise to get him to listen to my leg and seat when cueing a specific lead - it helps set him up correctly. I love it when I try something and it actually works.

I actually worked a bit with Pretzel and his love for stool-jumping. He was racing around the arena, and I ran with him trying to direct him with my arm. I directed him over the stool, and he actually understood rather well and did what I asked! He tended to race around too fast, and wasn't able to make the turn to the stool in time when he went that fast. I can tell that his intense need for speed will be hard to deal with in the agility ring. I'm gonna have to get me some good running shoes!

If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Today's ride was an up-and-down session. Tango was super light in the face, I rode with my fingertips and it was wonderful!. His trot is so incredibly solid. Canter? Weeellll....this was also up and down. I worked a lot on our canter to the left, getting his shoulder up on the corners is is major difficulty this way. he is so much more balanced to the right for some reason, and he always has been. When I showed longe line, I showed him to the right first because that was such a nicer canter.

our transitions were so-so. Trot to canter transitions were very good, but our walk to canter going to the left is just so darn BAD. He hesitates, and sometimes it takes half the arena before he pops into it. I worked on asking him to canter while walking outwards towards the rail 9I started more towards the center and had a slight angle to his body ) to help get him to strike out with that inside leg first. He just does not want to pay attention to my cues, and he just sulls up and walks until he gets annoyed by my spur enough to just throw himself into a canter, whichever lead. I did a ton of transitions, and actually by the end of the ride he was getting it a lot better. This is taking a lot of patience from me, that's for sure!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Look what I got in the mail today? Our win picture from Novi!

I have been doing a lot of little element practices at home with Pretzel - doing a little bit of the weave poles (just 4 poles right now), getting him to touch the target (he LOVES that game!), etc. At the barn, I always have my mounting stool in the arena, and after my ride I usually run around with Pretzel. lately we have been practicing leaping the stool while I stand off to the side and with my hand and voice I ask him to go jump. I am not worried about the jumping part (heck, the stool is pretty short anyways), but mainly I want him to get used to doing the obstacle on my command. One of the books I am reading talks about the importance of training your dog to work away from you, or "send" him to an obstacle rather than constantly training him with you right at his side. Makes perfect sense! This is one area we are having success, Pretzel does seem to understand when I am pointing or gesturing at something at an distance from us.

This weekend we are headed to Indianapolis for a dog show on Saturday and Sunday. Supposedly these judges should be favorable to Pretzel. I have no idea, it's all Greek to me!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pretzel and I headed for Indy after work. We checked into the Motel 6 (only $29 a night, whatta bargain!) and headed over to the show grounds to visit with everyone for a bit. Kayleen put pretzel up on the grooming table and showed me areas where I could trim him up a bit to make him look neater and make his lines look cleaner. Although it was very little trimming we did, I could tell the difference afterwards.

Back at the motel, I tried playing some fetch with him a bunch to take off the edge of his energy. I am not sure just playing fetch on and off the motel bed was enough exercise, but it was all we could was really bitter cold outside!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

We showed at 8:00am, so last night was a pretty short night for us! I got to the show grounds a little after 6am so that I could get things ready and get my brain ready. We went into the 9-12 month puppy class, and Pretzel was really really wiggly. He kept turning his head to look around and it made it tough to get him stacked well and keep him straight. I think our gaiting was better, I am pretty sure his head was up more (wish I had video!!!). It wasn't a very smooth class because of his excess energy, we ended up 2nd out of 3 in our puppy class.

I knew that Pretzel needed an outlet for that energy, so that afternoon I took him out on the longe line and we ran around the fairgrounds for an hour. It was still pretty cold outside, but the sun was shining and it was a pretty day. We explored the grounds, played fetch with a big leaf and a few sticks, and visited with passerbys.

Later that evening I spent some time practicing our simple training stuff in the aisleway - sit,, down, stay, touch the target, etc. I was able to keep his attention focused on me except when another dog came by. For some reason, Pretzel has been obsessed with trying to play with other dogs all day long, and it has been a real big pain to keep him contained when another dog walks by.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pretzel really enjoyed the bed at the Motel 6, he took advantage when I jumped in the shower and curled up under the warm blankets.

We showed a little later this morning - at 10:45. I was truly on my own for the first time at this show since my mentors were busy showing other breeds. It was a bittersweet moment for me, because I realized that this will be the last time Pretzel is ever shown in the puppy time we show he will be a year old and will move up a class. Hard to believe he is growing up so fast, yet still has that puppy mind.

Our class went better - at least the stacking part did. On our down and back he took off at a gallop and I had to bring him back down for a trot, and he did start out his go around at a pace, but I corrected it right away and all was well. This judge completely flip-flopped the placings from yesterday, but that meant we still got 2nd out of 3. A sad, low way to end our puppy career...ya win some, ya lose some!

My assignment to work on this month is to start stacking Pretzel and baiting him with food just enough to get his expression to come out (he has a great face!) but teach him he is not supposed to move while being baited. He is a smart dog, I am sure he will catch on quickly with enough practice.

Monday, February 11, 2013

It was horribly cold and windy today. I had a small space of time between work and an evening meeting so I put on a couple layers of clothing and headed to the barn. Today a couple layers wasn't nearly enough! I free-longed Corky and Tango for a while, but it was just too bitter to even attempt to ride. I hate this...last winter was so mild I never had to wimp out of riding because of temperatures. This year the temps are putting a big crimp in my training program. If the cold air burns my lungs, there is no way I am making my horses breathe hard from exercise. So the training stays paused...maybe tomorrow it will be better.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I know I haven't been completely consistent in riding Tango every day, but my schedule just doesn't allow it. It is frustrating, because either the cold temperatures or things outside of my horse life tend to always interfere. Today I made it out to ride even though I only had a small fraction of time to squeeze my ride in. Tango was full of himself, and wasn't very cooperative. I could tell right away when I free-longed him that he was in a bit of a "mood". He hopped around a lot, and was REALLY forward under saddle at the canter. At this point in our training I think I am going to have to start teaching him to rate his speed and listen to what I am asking rather than asking forward-forward-forward all the time. Up until the last couple weeks I have had to push him constantly to keep the forward motion going. Now he is racing around and getting a bit wild with his control, but when I ask for a slight bit of control he breaks to a trot even if I have a lot of leg on him. Transitions were balky like normal. I feel like I am floundering around with no real progress in our training. I mean, I know we have been making progress, but I feel like it has been in such tiny increments that we will never be ready for show season. I need to really get to work on our training, and sit down and make out a plan of action. I work best when I have a formal plan to follow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tonight I sat down to watch the Westminster Dog Show. It was really cool to see dogs and handlers that I actually recognize from the shows! I watched the Weimaraners show in the afternoon (the live video conveniently took place during my free period) and saw several Weims and handlers I have shown against this year. I loved that all of the dogs in the class looked happy and bouncy, several were breaking their stacks (just like Pretzel) and getting a little wiggly. I prefer seeing that instead of robotic show dogs. Gotta love the Weimaraner...I doubt if one could ever be robotic!

I noticed that all of the handlers had their dogs on a long leash and didn't hold them close to the head like I have been doing. I need to some how teach Pretzel to hold his head up on his own so I don't have to hold it there with the collar chain under his chin. Not sure how to do that, I will probably have to experiment on my own to figure something out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I rushed over to the barn after work to squeeze in a ride before the lessons started. Because I had very little time, I saddled Tango right up, put him on the longe line for about 5 rounds to warm him up, and hopped right on.

I found it interesting that yesterday I accidentally dropped a tissue out of my coat pocket while riding, and when we came around the arena and Tango saw it on the ground he was really bothered! When we cantered by the tissue, he actually bucked at it. Tango used to be completely fearless! I noticed that with his maturation he is starting to be more alert and aware of his surroundings, which is rarely a good thing. When he was a yearling and 2yo, nothing on earth bothered him. I hope he stays more on the relaxed side. I am VERY interested to see how he will ride outside when we go out for the first time this spring. Last summer he was so EASY outside (compared to Corky!).

Today's ride was much better than yesterday. Maybe it was because I was in such a rush, I didn't have time to really think, just ride. I kept him moving the whole time, did a lot of circles and serpentines, changes of direction at the trot. Canters were better than yesterday. I do notice his canters are getting harder to sit to. That's a good thing, because usually that means the horse is driving hard underneath with his hocks when the canter becomes tough to sit. The canters that are super smooth are usually not as pretty when watching from the ground. I definitely think it is time for a video, I wish I could find a willing camera person to stand out in the cold and video me...any volunteers? *crickets chirping*

Monday, February 18, 2013

I rode Tango a couple times this weekend. The rides were pretty consistent - great trot, sticky canter transitions, decent canters. I worked a bit on some leg-yielding (counterbending circles are HARD for Tango!) and turning/pivoting on the haunches. Overall, my rides were pretty satisfactory. I don't feel like we are making any massive progress, but then we aren't going backwards either. I suspect the progress is just in such tiny increments, I can't pinpoint it.

A friend of mine came out on Saturday and rode Corky. SShe looks so good, other than being MAD the whole time! She doesn't enjoy riders other than me any more...she tolerates them but you can tell she is NOT happy with the different way their legs and seat are. I still love watching her move, she is gorgeous.

I set up my Art By Rabbit booth at the Findlay Tack Swap on Sunday. I did VERY well, sold a ton of stuff! Now I have been wavering over whether to save this money towards that really great new digital camera I want, or for a new saddle for Tango that fits his back better. My work/training saddle fits him great, but it is so beat up it would not look right in a show arena. My good saddle - the Pessoa A/O - fits Corky great but is just a bit too wide for Tango's narrow back and sits low on his withers. I want a saddle with an adjustable gullet. Hopefully I will earn a good chunk of money braiding at the All American Youth Show in May, and that will help pay for the saddle.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

This cold weather and my work schedule doesn't do Pretzel any favors - he needs and craves exercise! we have taken to running the stairs in the house. He loves leaping up and down the steps, and it does tire him out faster than a flat game of fetch. He is such a good dog, there certainly is nothing like having someone here who hangs on your every word (even if he doesn't understand them), and wants to be within 2 feet of you at all times. It's rather flattering to my ego!

Friday, February 22, 2013

What a great couple of days! I rode Tango on Wednesday, and he was SO good! We actually had one of those canters that I call "Cadillac Canters". He was driving deep, slow-legged, and topline stayed consistently level, and I pretty much just sat there and enjoyed the ride. It was awesome! (Of course, this was cantering to the right, his best way). That was great, considering it was 19 degrees by the time I was done riding. It took a lot of effort to make myself go out to the barn and ride with the wind blowing and spitting snow. I told myself that every small step I take in training this winter will pay off great dividends this coming show season. We shall see!

Today I had another one of those Cadillac rides. He still is sticky taking the left lead, but it was better today, and the overall ride was really really good. I noticed today he was really consistent in his topline at both canters. I watched ourselves in the side mirrors as we cantered by and I thought "Hey, we might actually be ready for a show in a few months!" What a change from just a week or two ago when I was feeling so frustrated and stagnant. Readers of this blog must think I am bipolar with my assessment of our progress! No, not necessarily bipolar, but just very very self-critical about things. the very last thing I ever want to be is barn blind, so I tend to nitpick every detail and look for room for improvement. Nothing is more irritating than someone who is barn blind...and nothing is worse for your future progress than to think you already have it all together!

So....I am really hoping to haul to Darla's in a few weeks to get her feedback on where we are now in our training. It's time to put him on the front burner and start hauling him places to ride.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I love watching Pretzel play (or attempt to play) with Tango. Today I shot a little video of the two of them.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tango was extremely low energy today. He barely moved around when I free-longed him, and under saddle he was a complete slug. I had to really get after him when asking him to canter. Part of me thinks we just backslid several weeks in our training, but the smart, non-panicked side of me remembers that with several steps forward there is always one or two back in the training process. No worries!

Tango and Corky had their feet done on Saturday, both got new shoes in the front. I was glad to see that Corky is not bothered by having bare feet in the back. My farrier trimmed her very lightly in the back since she was SO sore after the last trimming on her new barefoot feet. It is nice having a good, reliable farrier that you can count on. I have been spoiled for the past 20 years!

Monday, February 25, 2013

I had some fun with Pretzel at the barn today. I set up a couple of low horse jumps and practiced cuing him over the jumps. He is just so darn enthusiastic! Hard to train, but it make sit a lot of fun.

We also worked on gaiting and stacking today. his gaiting is going really good. He has figured out that he is more comfortable when he keeps his head up (when his head is up, I relax the tension on the lead...kind of like what I do with horse training - release the tension when you get the ongoing correct response). I still have trouble seeing how accurate my stacking is unless I get down on my knees to look. I have to get used to not getting on my knees, because that would look awkward in a skirt. Yes, folks, I actually bought a skirt suit! I am not guaranteeing that I have the guts to actually wear it, but I bought a couple suits off of Ebay last week. Yep, I have turned in to a true dog show geek. I cannot resign myself to the whole tennis shoes with a skirt look, so I went shopping this weekend and found a pair of shoes that are athletic enough to run in, but dressy enough to look maybe OK with the skirt. No, I haven't had the gumption to actually try all this on together. Maybe someday....

We practiced the weave poles tonight - 2 pairs of poles. he is finally getting the hang of going on to the second set of poles and continuing to weave. Tonight he did it correctly about 80% of the time. Success!

On to March, 2013...