Horse and man alike respond poorly to force.
"For what a horse does under constraint, as Simon says, he does without understanding, and with no more grace than a dancer would show if he was whipped and goaded. Under such treatment horse and man alike will do much more that is ugly than graceful. No, a horse must make the most graceful and brilliant appearance in all respects of his own will with the help of aids."

Gracie's a Ridge Walker now :) Oct. 22, 2011

It took me a very long time to try out Gracie on the steeper ridge trails around our place, as I was hesitant to take a youngster atop some of our more rugged ridges without a seasoned horse to follow, and timing never worked out for a buddy to ride with. But this week I decided that Gracie and I are ready for solo steep climbs and narrow ridge tops. 
Gracie honestly gives all she's got on the steepest climbs, is oh-so-careful walking along the tops of the ridges, and slowly picks her way in a collected and balanced manner down steep hills. -- Gracie's a ridge walker now :) and she loves the sweet view from the top as much as I do :-D

Gracie discovers edge of the world @ Montana de Oro, Aug.23, 2011.

Montana de Oro, spring 2011.

Baybay and me, equine body surfing, Pismo Beach, Aug. 6, 2011

Getting Gracie Ready for Prime Time

November 14, 2010:
For several months now, three-year-old "Given Grace," known around here as "Gracie," has been asking me to take her out for some one on one attention. She's had a little round penning in the distant past, but not for many months before I took the first two photos below a little over a week ago.

First I had to rescue the old round pen from the weeds and hard surface layer. Then I took my soft-eyed filly down to the round pen. Gracie is so calm and willing, with a very long attention span. I could not keep my body language together as to get any pictures while she was moving, but I had camera in pocket for when she stood at attention following the "Whoa!" command, waiting for my next command:

Gracie stayed totally attentive throughout our rather short session of walk, gait, stop, turn toward me, come and follow. We spent a lot of time just standing there, as I waited for her to turn even one eye or ear toward a distraction before sending her on another easy going circle.

Afterward I cooled her off with a good rinse down:

Next time she will learn to carry saddle and bit.


Friday, Nov. 26, 2010: After a week of stormy freezing weather I took Gracie's winter blanket off, tied and groomed her a little. She patiently waited tied to the hitching rail while I removed blankets from the other horses. After dressing her front legs in splint boots and bell boots, off we went to the round pen.
It was a beautiful day, and Lynn came out with the camera to watch.

For quite a few minutes Gracie worked up a sweat in excitement before calming down into walking circles. All the while I absolutely love listening to the sweet rhythm of her easy three beat lope and steady four beat gait as she circles around me.

Soon we were ready to learn something new:

She stood completely still for her first ever saddling:

Gracie calmly and happily carried her saddle around for a few circles in each direction, proudly walking as if she carried a badge of honor.

Then it was time to fetch a bridle:

What's in my mouth? ! ? :

A few more calm circles getting used to that big heavy snaffle bit in her mouth, then it was time to add a set of reins -- after she followed me back to the center of the pen:

Gracie walked a few more circles with the reins run loosely through the saddle D-rings and looped once around the saddle horn, not tight enough to collect her head, but just the weight of the leather provided a tiny amount of pressure toward a more vertical head carriage. Then back to standing with me in the center, where I freed the reins from her saddle with much praise and appreciation of her gentle willingness and intelligence.

And then ...

What's this ? ! ? Waz up here? ! ?

Oh, it's flexing:

Good girl, Gracie:

Her reins still draped loosely over the saddle, Gracie receives more praise after flexing, and releases her flexion somewhat:

I also jumped up and down on each side of her saddle:

My jumps became pull ups, with Gracie braced so as not to take a single step as I hung from the side of her new saddle:

She was so very good. We called it a day, and I rinsed her off and combed her mane and tail while she grazed on the lawn.

An absolutely delightful day. :)

Equine Body Surfing!

azbackcountryriders Ocean Ride photos by krogershorseman

Heading out to stalk waves at Border Field State Beach, June 2009:

Jessie and Hawk catch a ride:

Judy and Baybay turn to catch a wave just as it curls:

Caught the wave above, free-floating as it broke --
then loped in the soup as the wave helped push us into shallow water:

Both Hawk and Baybay quickly learned the game of stalking breaking waves, turning, then pushing off the bottom and lifting their legs to let the wave fully support the half-ton equine body surfers.
Horse surfing rocks!

Hoofball control practice

March 8, 2008 video:

Hoofball (a.k.a.: "horse soccer," "equine soccer," or "pushball on horseback") is my 3-year-old Spotted Saddle Horse filly's favorite activity. The short video above shows Baybay gaining more ball control, as well as her absolute love of loping past the ball to reverse it's direction.

Baybay gets very possessive (and competitive!) over her ball:

Knee lift is good for dribbling as well as for gaiting:

Two-minute YouTube video:

I attribute Baybay's love of hoofball games for her increasing skills performing stops, turns, and backs. And, though she sometimes hurries in her enthusiasm for keeping up with the ball, since the time I began using hoofball sessions as a reward for successful arena work, Baybay has found her groove on the trail, usually staying in an efficient, smooth and consistent four beat gait (plus, she's developed a comfortable working lope whenever I ask:) Despite our mutual love for loping around the ball to save it from hitting the fence, we try to continue work on staying in gait while in control of a fast rolling ball:

Hoofball Junior League-Class of 2011 (1/13/2008)

January 13, 2008: Three-month-old "Gracie" took right to her first encounter with the 48 inch hoofball. What a fun way to halter train!

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