glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
So after a week's worth of posts largely consisting of unleavened text, you probably need a few pictures to lighten the load.
Illustrated version )
glenatron: (Cash)
Our last day began with some liberty riding- we rode Riley in the round pen with no bridle or halter while Ross moved him along. This worked a little like a lunge lesson, except with more in the way of sharp turns. This is a pretty good exercise for focusing on your own seat and feeling the horse underneath you.

In the afternoon we took the ponies out to ride around some different areas of the property. It was nice to just take the ponies some different places and try riding out there. They were a little less confident out in the more distant areas of the farm and we got to work on helping them to feel less rushy, using the same bend and release approach that we used on previous days. It was a nice way to round off a really enjoyable visit.

Tomorrow we are on our way back towards Sydney and before we know it we'll be making for home again.
glenatron: (Cash)
This morning we visited sunny Inverell, which is the nearest town of any size. It was a very pleasant morning and nice to see the local area. Australia's wildlife remains extraordinary - the most everyday birds are so bright and colourful and there are so many of them. Also there were lizards and butterflies and bright autumn trees.

In the afternoon we swapped horses, so I was working with Birch. She's only a touch over 14 hands high but a sturdy quarter horse type and quite happy to carry me. Working with her on the ground I immediately felt that she was a lot easier to work with - if she finds something disagreeable she'll let you know rather than internalising it the way that Riley does, which I find quite easy to handle. She was also much quicker to tune into my life so I was able to present things to her that she could pick up on quite easily.

One realisation I had somewhere between yesterday's work and today's was that although a lot of the work that Ross does looks very similar to what I have done in the past and seen done often, it is different in its substance. The thinking underlying it is a little different.

An example of this is the work I was doing with Birch in the trot- we were tending to motorbike around the corners with her dropping all her weight on the inside shoulder. She was slightly working counterbent as well, so Ross suggested that I pick up the inside rein to create a bend around the circle but then place it against her neck to ask her to balance up and get her weight off the inside shoulder. If necessary we needed to forget the trot as long as we got the bend sorted out. Once it was fixed, the important thing was not to try to hold her in place- if she wanted to drop in again, I would just fix it up again. That way she could figure out that every time she started loading that inside shoulder I would ask her to pick it back up again. After a little while she stopped dropping in. The job here was to make the thing she wanted to do less easy, but not impossible- she could make her decision, but I would try to guide her to the decision I was asking her for.

Interestingly, Sari got on very well with big Riley horse, finding him a lot easier to ride than I do.
glenatron: (Cash)
We spent most of today riding, which I think means that this is the most actual time I have spent on horseback since Zorro went lame in September 2011. Turns out riding is some kind of actual exercise! Who knew?

Today my goal was to work on relaxation, aiming to get Riley working more softly and with less tension in him. Helping a horse to lose their concerns by getting to a place where they can allow the human to direct their thought is a major aspect of the type of horsemanship Ross practices so this seemed a really good opportunity as far as I was concerned.

I am starting to get a better grasp on the idea of directing a horse's thought and what it means in practice- it is not always technically very different from a more typical "Natural Horsemanship" approach of driving a horse, but the underlying philosophy diverges in that you are never trying to send the horse away from something, you are trying to direct them to something. So when we work on the circle we don't send the horse forward, we direct them towards a point in front of them. If we put more energy in by tapping the rope on our leg or waving a hand or whatever, it's not to drive them it is simply to ask them to follow the direction we have already offered and to interrupt whatever ideas they have about what they would prefer to be doing.

We started out working on the basics- stop and go, steering and forequarter and hindquarter yields. On the ground I noticed that Riley was tending to lack smoothness in his upwards transitions, bouncing into trot and hollowing as he did so. Ross explained that he was holding back in the walk, so that he wasn't ready to move into the trot. He was a little concerned because he couldn't give in to the idea of going forward so he was making decisions about how much to hold back. If I could get him to a place where he was happy for me to make that decision, he would be able to make the transition more easily.

Riding I did some work on asking Riley to focus on what I was asking, taking my direction and being ready for a change. We did a bit of backing up where Ross suggested I give plenty of rein, then pick up a little to ask for back up. If the back-up didn't happen or was sticky I was to take up the rein more strongly for a moment then release it and ask again with the weight of the reins. The stronger take up didn't need to happen for long, just enough to get the horse thinking about the situation so the next time I presented that softer feel it would be easier to accept.

We also worked on his trot, which tends to be hollow, bouncy and uncomfortable. In this we began by getting him happy to walk with me at different speeds, so that there was no bump upwards into trot, but we could find a walk from which trot was an easier option. As we picked up the energy a little, Riley would tend to lose focus and so Ross had me using the inside rein to change his bend and direction until Riley was able to accept faster movement and we could get some cleaner transitions.

Riley's trot would tend to get faster and less comfortable as he got more concerned, so as I felt him hollowing it was my job to take up a little inside bend ( or a lot, as necessary ) and wait for him to offer to lower his head. When he wanted to drop through the inside shoulder I could lay the rein on his neck to help him to come back into balance. When he offered a little drop of his head I would just follow the rein down as he began to lower and stretch out his back. It was interesting work and although I didn't achieve the consistency one might be looking for, I did get some good changes.
glenatron: (Cash)
Today we started out doing a little more groundwork. Ross started Sari working on turns on the forehand and hindquarters. The hindquarter yield operates as a very tight turn where the front feet stay more or less in place and the hindquarters move around them. The goal is to direct the horse around the circle- if their shoulders fall out then their thought is moving around that way, not being directed. The two things that one is looking for in this movement are the hind feet stepping underneath the body and a smooth bend in the neck with no resistance. If the step is too bumpy or there is resistance to the rein then it's important not to release but to just stick with the horse in the same position relative to them and wait until they can offer a smooth step with a relaxed bend.

They moved onto turns on the hindquarter ( or forequarter yields ) where the horse walks the forequarters around the hind feet. Ross teaches this with the inside front foot stepping ahead of the outside front, rather than behind as I have learned to do it in the past- neither is incorrect, but they are slightly different. A horse should be able to do either. The forequarter yield requires the horse to move their balance back a little before they can move their forequarters around. Ross takes the rein wide and asks the horse to look where they are going ( because where a horse is looking is a good idea of where they are thinking ) then follow that thought with their feet.

I did a bit of round pen work, first with Riley, just so I could get an idea of how Ross expects things to work out in a round pen and then with their little welsh pony May. She is a little sceptical of people in general so we used our session as a chance to try and help her feel better about my presence.

The way Ross works with a more concerned horse in a round pen is a little different from what you might have seen other trainers do and almost the exact opposite of what someone with a Monty Roberts ( or other Natural Horsemanship type background ) might expect.

When I let May off the halter, she immediately wandered off to the far side of the pen and had a sniff of the grass and a look out at the other ponies. Ross suggested I make a bit of noise by popping the tail of the rope on my chaps and she stopped and looked at me. Then we stood there for a while, me quite still, pony staring at me, both of her tiny fuzzy ears pointed my way. After a while she went back to watching something in the distance so I popped the rope on my chaps again and this time she looked at me and took a couple of steps forward. We formed a kind of impasse then, her watching me and me waiting for her to change so Ross suggested doing something to ask for a change again. A bit of movement or noise was enough for her to keep watching me and take another step forward. By this point she was about six metres away and Ross explained that the reason she hadn't come any closer was simply that she didn't feel safe to. She was confident enough to approach me that far, but she wasn't able to get any closer because she hadn't decided whether or not I was a danger to her.

After giving her a little more time Ross suggested I walk across and around her, not getting any closer but not getting further away either and changing the angle between us. After a long moment of contemplation, May turned around to face me. I gave her some thinking time then arced around the other way, maintaining distance again and this time when she turned to face me she took a few steps further forward. By now we were quite close so Ross suggested I go up and rub on her a bit. I gave her a rub and then walked away, but I was a little abrupt so she didn't come with me. After a couple more arcs we met in the middle and I rubbed on her a whole lot, giving her lots of scratchies for being the bravest little pony mare.

The whole process took quite a while- maybe forty minutes- and for most of it nothing was happening at all. The importance of moving and popping the rope against my chaps was simply that they interrupted May's thought, asking her to make some kind of change. He talked with Sari about working with a horse like her Pepsi and how that might be different in what the horse offered- some are much more keen to run, others want to stand like May, and Pepsi would probably just ignore anyone else and eat, but the principle of interrupting the horse's thought and allowing the horse to make their own decision to approach is consistent.

In the afternoon we rode together out in the arena ( which is a mowed area of paddock ) with Sari on Birch and me back on Riley ( at approximately 11hh, May would be a bit much horse for me. ) We started out working on our hindquarter yields from the saddle. I found this hard because the way Ross expects to take the rein is starting wide and smoothly coming around and in the past I have tended to take the indirect rein straight across my body. The aim of this is to guide the horse around rather than trying to make them come around. Riley was getting quite stuck, but as I learned to do less and soften my presentation Riley found he could follow it better.

Ross challenged us to tell him which front foot our horses would step away with when we were halted. Once we could call it accurately, he asked us to set things up so they set off with the other foot instead. This isn't a specifically important exercise, but it is important that as riders we can feel where the horse's feet are, where their balance is and how we can affect that.

We worked a bit on our lateral work too as I tried to understand how Ross teaches it to horses from the reins alone. I found it very difficult to avoid using my leg but I started to be able to get the feel of it- using the reins to contain the direction so that they closed the directions we didn't want to go and allowed the directions we do. We have been working in sidepulls when we ride which I've never used before but they're pretty easy to work with and don't present a very different feel to a bit.
glenatron: (Cash)
I'm not sure I really mentioned this, but [livejournal.com profile] herecirm and I are in Australia at the moment. After a bit of tourist fun in the Sydney area and visiting the Blue Mountains, we have made our way a little further north. Back when I hosted Ross Jacobs teaching, he said if we ever wanted to stop by and visit with him and his wife Michelle, we would be welcome. He was probably quite confident that we wouldn't take him up on the offer, as they live some distance off the grid. However, it turns out that I can be surprisingly keen, especially when a chance to work with some horses comes along with the opportunity to go on an adventure with Sari.

We arrived at Ross and Michelle's comfortable off-grid property last night, after what felt like a long day of driving concluding in some pretty dark dirt roads.

This morning we got a start on working with the horses we will be playing with this week. Riley, who I will be working with, is a big chestnut thoroughbred who is quite resistant to moving forward. Sari is working with Birch, a chunky and slightly grumpy mare. Both horses belong to Ross and Michelle but haven't seen a lot of work over the last few months so there is plenty for us to work on.

This morning we started with some basic groundwork, giving us a chance to get to know one another. The main things I needed to work on were ( as ever ) getting more control of my energy and giving Riley more direction. Ross is particularly interested in giving the horse a place to go rather than asking them to move away from something and having used driving the horse as a big part of my way of working over the last few years so trying to do groundwork without that is a little like trying to knit with one hand behind my back right now but I need to be able to do it. A big thing that I noticed was that I needed to be paying attention to where we were going rather than looking at him. That made things way easier for Riley but commensurately harder for me.

Working with Birch, Sari was doing much the same work but with a different focus as Birch is a very different horse. Sari started out tending to wait too much for Birch who needed her to be more committed and insist that Birch keep up. Sari's background is quite different from this type of horsemanship and so this was her first time seriously working at it, it's challenging skill to learn and she was doing a great job of picking it up. What I noticed was how good things looked when they fell into place and how quickly she got a handle on things.

In the afternoon we rode, just getting an idea of where we and the horses were at. With Riley I was working to get him bending correctly- he was a bit stuck on the left rein. We also needed to work on moving forward smoothly- while he was dragging it was also marked by an uncertainty about how much he needed to hold back. Once he was able to just go forward he started to be able to relax and reach down, releasing the muscles in his back.

With Birch, Sari worked a lot on getting her to bend correctly in trot. Birch was tending to counterbend and Sari was learning to move her laterally using the rein, picking up an inside bend and asking the mare to stop dropping her shoulders in.

It was a good start to our visit and I will be very interested to see how we progress over the next few days. There are pictures to accompany this, but I don't want to eat too much of Ross' off-grid bandwidth so they will be posted later.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
I came home from Australia this morning and this afternoon the first thing I needed to do was to visit Zorro.

He was actually pleased to see me- he came marching over and gave me a very gentle little whispery snuckle as I got close. Given how non-demonstrative he is, that was pretty much like a big hug.

He's lost a bunch of winter coat and is starting to look more sleek and summery too, which is nice. He appreciated me working to get rid of some more stray fur with the rubber curry comb- I think he enjoyed the attention.

Then we got to work )
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
This morning Steve had a guy who does jousting stop by for a private lesson on their way home from a show- actually they stopped over last night then had the lesson this morning. The jouster's squire and general assistant for the show was none other than Rob from Lodge Ropes - it turned out that there were two of his existing customers among our number, which was pretty cool. Rob is also Australia's answer to Rick Lamb which is how Steve, Elaine and I got interviewed at lunchtime.

Anyways, a few photos )
Now I need to pack up my little caravan and get ready to head out. I've had a really great couple of weeks, I've learned a whole lot and I'm going to miss Silversand even though I've only been here briefly. I really appreciate the sacrifice Steve and Irena make when they come over to Europe for the summer.

Day 8

2 May 2011 13:47
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
So the last day of our course started with a bit of talking about how we were getting on.

We talked a little at the start of the day about being with the horse- some horses need you to wait for them, others need you to get them waiting for you a little- I would characterise Zorro and Oscar in the former group, Samson very much in the latter. The goal is always to make sure that the person and the horse leave at the same time in terms of intent and movement. This goes through all our transitions and it comes down to riding with your whole body rather than just with the rein.

Mostly pictures from here on out... )
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
We're nearing the end of our riding time now, but I think I've managed to make some useful changes in what I'm doing. I'd say Elaine has too, but what she does looked pretty good to start with...

Getting better every day )
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
Today was the start of the second clinic of our visit, but we only had one new rider today ( the others arrive tomorrow ) so it didn't make a big difference. I was riding Samson again.

Day six at Silversand )
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
Today we visited the Barossa, which is a scenic and more touristy area where they make a bit of wine.

Of course, it wouldn't be much of a day if I didn't get to sit on a horse.

Metal Mount 1
Hopping on a bronze Clydesdale in Angaston. Elaine suggested I should totally get on him but he is surprisingly tall and unsurprisingly slippery.

Metal Mount 2
Was Elaine just making up excuses to take pictures of my ass? Well, she is only human.

Metal Mount 3
Noble steed with a slightly badly sculpted eye and vaguely misplaced ears. But still one of the only bronze Clydesdales I have ever sat on.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
Today was very interesting, but not a lot to write up or at lest less than you might think, so it may be largely picture-oriented.

Illustrated version )

Another day off tomorrow, so we may be playing at being tourists again, then the second clinic of our visit begins so we'll have a few other riders along for the last few days.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
"What?" I hear you ask, "Day four? Surely, [livejournal.com profile] glenatron, you have been at Silversand for five days?"

You are of course correct, but yesterday was a day off, so we went off and did a bit of tourism, visited the Murray river and realised everything was shut for Anzac Day and Easter Monday and came back. We saw pelicans and discovered that the Australian version of a Delicatessen sells several different types of pie, which makes it a little different from the British version.

So anyway, Day 4 )
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
We got some things done today.

For the protection of friends pages )
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
In the morning chat we discussed what we had found yesterday and how we needed to change things to get them better today. For me that was a matter of presentation and figuring out how little I could do in order to get the response I was looking for. I had noticed that Oscar was very happy to let me fill in for him if possible but that when I pushed things a little further he had a lot more lightness to offer.

Second day at Silversand )
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
I woke up at around 6:30, after about 11 hours sleep and figured I didn't need to sleep much longer so I got up and had a shower. The birds were noisy ( but surprisingly hard to see considering how brightly coloured many of them are ) and the air was cool. That latter point was something of a factor in why you're better having a shower in the evening- it's fine while the shower is running but pretty cold directly afterwards.

Day one of the course, with pictures )

day1-6
Some of the locals. These guys are pretty noisy and excitable. They like to collect in trees and hang upside down making a racket.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
Well, after a very long travel, I am here at Silversand. There are palomino ponies and cockatiels and Irish Elaine and Steve and Irena and it's pretty cool.
Arrived at Silversand
Tomorrow we ride horses. Very shortly I will go to bed - we will have supper first but I keep falling asleep at the keyboard...

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