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I'm in total awe of both you and Tessa, Katie!
So many things to learn, remember and practice.

I loved seeing the pictures of Tessa with Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome and completely enjoyed the videos.
 

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I'm honestly fascinated by the fact that you're developing a way to ride with +R! I rode for years but after realizing how much better that method of training is and how -R/+P riding is that it made me a bit sad to think about. Maybe you'll be the next great dressage rider who changes everyone's mind on it! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #43 · (Edited)
Sorry it's been so long, it has been one of the craziest times of my life! Finals, AP tests, I graduate in a few days and have lots of party planning and family things for the occasion!

I'm in total awe of both you and Tessa, Katie!
So many things to learn, remember and practice.

I loved seeing the pictures of Tessa with Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome and completely enjoyed the videos.
Thank you! We're always learning, there's no definitive end, that's for sure!

I'm honestly fascinated by the fact that you're developing a way to ride with +R! I rode for years but after realizing how much better that method of training is and how -R/+P riding is that it made me a bit sad to think about. Maybe you'll be the next great dressage rider who changes everyone's mind on it! ;)
Everyone I've talked to that's switched to +R came from a traditional training background (-R/+P) for similar reasons. I think there are so many wonderful equestrians out there who truly love their horses and want to do what's best for them, but are simply unaware of how certain methods affect horses. There's a big movement toward understanding the science behind it all, and I think many people are switching to +R and enjoying it (and the horses especially are too!)

SO because I haven't updated in forever, this one will be a bit lengthy.

It was miss Tessa's birthday on April 24- she turned 13! Crazy that I have a teenager on my hands now ;) I made her a little cake of oats, molasses, honey, carrots, & apples, and let her graze and enjoy getting pampered.


She's also made a lot of progress with her haunches-in. On the circle it's more of a "haunches-out" since it's easier for her to do. Regardless, she understands the concept of moving forward, yielding her hindquarters, and tracking the two targets (one is for her nose, the other is for her haunches).

Tessa is doing absolutely wonderful and is still so eager to ride. It warms my heart that she meets me at the gate as soon as she sees me (it used to be she'd run away or just wait until I "retrieved" her). The goal is to make it fun and not "work" for her...I mean, moving correctly feels good for the horse, so dressage ought to be intrinsically rewarding. I still use the clicker and treats while I ride to affirm that she's understanding my cue correctly. If I completely took it out of riding, she would never know what the right answer was, because there would be nothing to mark it!

I've always wanted to do musical freestyle with Tessa and, since this is my last summer before heading to college, I figure it's now or never. For those of you who don't know...I'm a complete Broadway and music nerd. Dressage is supposed to be like a dance, even coined the nickname "Horse Ballet" so combining my two favorite things is a win-win. I'm looking at a show in late June and one in early August to prepare. Musical Freestyle is very difficult because you have to ride in exact time with the music. If you have no clue what it is, I'll link a video of Charlotte Dujardin's world record with Valegro (obviously Tess and I will look quite different :giggle:)

So, here's a bit of "dressage"y stuff we've been working on. I just got a GoPro so I'll be able to get some better video of our rides. I'm super excited! For now, here are a few short clips.

I like riding bridleless because it shows any errors in riding. Sometimes you can be using too many rein cues and not using enough of your seat without realizing it. Take away the bridle and you're left with nothing but your seat! I also like doing it to periodically check Tessa's balance. If she's relying on the bridle for balance and to help her flex, I want to get rid of that. You can see she gave me a nice downward stretch and she actually flexed on a circle for me. Her transitions were perfect as well; sometimes she lifts her head and hollows her neck during an upward transition, so I'm elated that she's keeping herself in frame. Very very proud!



She's like a big dog. She knows the routine:001_tongue:

A couple of other quick clips...
"At centerline, halt, salute"...and give a treat. For those unfamiliar with dressage, every test begins with a halt and salute at centerline. In the ring I couldn't give a treat, but at home I do!

Look at those transitions! Walk>canter>trot>halt (and another treat)

And here's some progress with Sioux! I'm so pleased with how happy and eager she is to play. I love seeing her energy.

This is something I've been experimenting with to gain her confidence. They're called start signals. Essentially, I won't move forward in training until Sioux tells me she's ready for it. In this video, the "start" signal is her touching the saddle, pad, girth, etc. Only after she gives me the start signal do I make a move to tack her up, and then I click and reward. She's not rewarded for touching the saddle (the start signal), it only means that she's initiating the opportunity to do something (hold still for saddling) to earn a reward. This has done wonders to improve her confidence! As a rescue, people bullied her into things and she easily gets frightened of it happening again. This way, she has a say and-amazingly-chooses to have a saddle put on her back. I'm also working with her on start signals with mounting, but I haven't gotten video yet.

I've been starting some other horses on clicker training too. This is Zoe, another one of the boarders at my stable. She's very mouthy, so I'm using clicker training to teach her some manners. Whenever she holds her head away from me, she gets a treat. Simple as that and she caught on very quickly. I always love seeing the different personalities and mind processes emerge.
 

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This is seriously incredible. I think you need to write a paper or book on your experiences using +R with horses.
 

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I love your videos and pictures.
A happy belated birthday wish from me to beautiful Tessa.

Also, thank you for including the video of the Dressage World Record -- OMG I was in SUCH awe of that rider and horse, I've never seen anything like that before in my life!
 

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Discussion Starter · #46 ·
This is seriously incredible. I think you need to write a paper or book on your experiences using +R with horses.
Aw, thank you! And my senior project was actually on this, so I did a presentation in front of a Panel and wrote an essay. I also submitted that essay for a scholarship. I'll be writing for my college's newspaper, so I'm sure I'll be able to sneak in a few articles about this topic ;)

I love your videos and pictures.
A happy belated birthday wish from me to beautiful Tessa.

Also, thank you for including the video of the Dressage World Record -- OMG I was in SUCH awe of that rider and horse, I've never seen anything like that before in my life!
Thanks! I'll pass the birthday wishes along :giggle: Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro are my dressage idols. Isn't it crazy how well he moves?! Fully captures the idea that it's a dance--glad you liked it as much as I did.
 

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Katie, I always learn so much from your posts on this thread! It’s amazing. You’ve accomplished so much with Tessa. Sioux too!

Happy belated birthday to Tessa as well! :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #48 ·
I am loving summer! My time is pretty much spent at the stable all day every day. I'm a working student under my trainer, a "stablehand" in that I do some chores for pay, and I'm continuing work with my autistic student (soon to be two). Additionally, I'm almost done with the classwork for my massage therapy certification and am discovering new muscles as I'm massaging horses.
I have never been in better shape!

Since none of the shows I found had musical freestyle (I live in a primarily western state so english and especially dressage is hard to find) so we decided to hold our own performance at my stable at the end of the summer! I'm going to do a freestyle with Tess and (hopefully) team liberty with Tessa and Sioux. I can ride Tess tackless and she knows a few tricks. I've been working with the two of them to get them in sync in doing movements as well as two separate tasks (i.e. Tess stands still while Sioux circles around her). It's been tricky since for awhile they were resource-guarding treats and are finally at the point where they know they'll both get one so they can stop chasing each other away. They are friends since they're kept in the same pasture and their personalities balance out nicely.


I brought them both into the indoor arena (which is especially huge for Sioux) and I got them both trotting with me and even over a small jump! Then they all ran around for awhile and were in perfect sync with each other. They'd both rear, stop, run, buck, etc at the same time. Wish I got all of that on video but I didnt' have my phone on me. I did catch the last seconds with all 3 mares playing, though.

I also brought my little dog out with me to the stable a day...yeah that'll be a one-time occurrence. She has ZERO horse sense and nearly got trampled by Tess in the first few minutes. Tess, for her part, was an absolute angel to her and was incredibly gentle and didn't spook at Bella's barking. Bella did, however, cause a stampede by her barking when I went to feed the horses lunch. It was so stressful having to halter a horse, close the gates, and lead them around with Bella in one arm (since she apparently can't be trusted on the ground). She had a blast running around the arena though- funkiest dressage pon I ever did see!


As a working student, I get to work with lots of different horses! In the clip is Fernando, the stable's only pony! He is part Andalusian.

And quick Tessa update: She has finally embraced self-carriage! This frees up her front end and means she has finally settled into her core to balance without help from me. Doesn't she look elegant?! She is also able to do spanish walk and school halt with me on her back; she lacked the strength to do this last summer so I'm incredibly pleased! It's just going to get harder and harder to leave her in two short months though:upset:
 

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Great pictures and videos of all. How in the world are you going to deal with leaving :sad3:, will you be close enough that you can come home once in awhile?
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Great pictures and videos of all. How in the world are you going to deal with leaving :sad3:, will you be close enough that you can come home once in awhile?
It's going to be rough, that's for sure! The college I'm going to is halfway across the country...but I'll be home for all the breaks, which ends up being roughly 4-5 months out of the year. I've looked into starting a club or riding team in the college area, and I've made several horse contacts there as well. I'm also looking into a program to train mustangs, so that could be my saving grace. It'll be interesting, that's for sure! I'm hoping to keep writing and updating this thread, though it may be more of a horse training journal than one for just Tessa.
 

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Love the new pictures and videos!

I hope you'll have someone record your show at the end of the summer... I'd love to see it!

Leaving Tess and Sioux when you go to college is bound to be rough but it sounds as though you are already planning everything out well in advance. :thumbsup:
Who will be taking care of Tess during the months when you are away?
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·

Who will be taking care of Tess during the months when you are away?
She will be staying at the stable under the watchful eye of my trainer/barn manager, so I know she'll keep getting the same trustworthy care. I will be splitting a lease between two people who already take lessons at the stable under my trainer, so Tessa's riding and training will stay the same. That way I can save as much money as I can the first year I'm away to hopefully take her with me my second year. I'll be scouting out places to keep her during my freshman year.
 

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That's great and I really hope it will work out so you can take her with you during your second year. :fingerx:
 

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Discussion Starter · #54 ·
Thought it was time for an update! It's actually not going to be super picture/video heavy today:001_tongue:

Okay, so our show is on Friday. Yikes! I spent hours timing and planning the movements (after the weeks it took to find the right song!). I can't remember if I ever explained the process so I will here just in case. For a musical freestyle, you want a song that matches:
1) The horse's beats per minutes/ strides
2) The horse's personality, if you will
3) The performance (i.e. lighthearted or serious)
4) Tempo changes enough for walk, trot, & canter
5) The song changes for enough movements

I actually used all the math I was taught (imagine that- math useful in my everyday life! ;) ) to find the distances of the diagonals, the circumference of circles, etc. Then I had to find how many feet per second Tessa moves so I could time it so she'd end up in the right part of the arena at the correct part of the song.

In Dressage you ride to the letters, so I'm attaching a picture below to show where those letters are. We have a short arena at my stable, so the test is according to those demographics. Also, the spectators will be at A, not C, so the test is kind of "backward" from what you'd normally see. For example, instead of entering the arena at A, I'm entering at C.


Without further ado, here is my test. I will post video from the show as soon as I'm able. The song is Aladdin Medley by Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. Since this is our own show, we've taken a few liberties that otherwise wouldn't be allowed in the show ring. It's going to be a fun performance!


Update for miss Sioux as well! It was just too much to try to get her ready for a show as well, so we won't be doing a liberty performance. I thought my limited time with her would be better spent doing more confidence building to help her get over some of her biggest fears.

She's scared of the farrier and vet...and she's scared of men, which both our farrier and vet are. She's gotten a lot better with me handling her feet and propping them up! I can also examine her as a vet would. It's hard to work on her fear of men since there are very limited opportunities. But one of my friends is in a Pre-Vet program and he agreed to come out. He spent 2 hours with us and by the end of it (with much patience) he was able to put his hands on Sioux. Doesn't sound like much, but it is HUGE for Sioux girl. Additionally, she approached him of her own accord without me standing by him. I've never seen her do that before! I was also able to handle her feet and examine her body as I would on my own. She was more nervous since there was a man standing by her, but it was good classical conditioning for her.

I also got the saddle with the girth on and tightened. Whoever originally introduced her to the saddle caused a lot of pain. She came with blisters and sores, so not only was she cinched up roughly, but the saddle fit incorrectly.
It's a lot for her to overcome, but she's doing great! I'm not sure where the original video is, so I'm posting a link to where I posted it on my instagram
http://instagr.am/p/B0SBcs8nS2k/
I'm almost done with my massage certification and have been completing full-body massages on multiple horses. My arms have never been sorer :giggle: http://instagr.am/p/B0z6fa8nLNR/
 

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Wow Katie, never realized it was so involved, too much for my old brain, good luck at the show. Looks like great progress with Sioux, every little step is great progress. How long does it take to do a full body massage on a horse?
 

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Discussion Starter · #56 ·
Wow Katie, never realized it was so involved, too much for my old brain, good luck at the show. Looks like great progress with Sioux, every little step is great progress. How long does it take to do a full body massage on a horse?
It kind of depends on the situation...if the horse has a specific problem I'd need to spend time at the beginning lunging it to examine its movement patterns. There also needs to be some discussion with the owner to get a full picture of the problem and horse's history. The massage itself normally lasts 1-1.5 hours (with the first session taking the longest) but combined with the rest can take up to two hours. On average, it takes about 3 massage sessions for a problem to be resolved. The later sessions take closer to an hour.

This was the mare I massaged yesterday. She's a Draft mix so has heavy, dense muscles to begin with. She's extremely tight in her haunches, so it takes all of my strength and body weight to get a response from the muscles. I also need a stool/mounting block to exert better downward pressure on her. I nearly pulled one of my own muscles in my quest to get those muscles to loosen:embarrassed:
 

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I'm so impressed with the whole concept of horse massage. I think it's wonderful that you take such a holistic approach to your animals.

The work that you put into your show is phenomenal. I'm so looking forward to seeing the video when the time comes! :jumping:
 

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It kind of depends on the situation...if the horse has a specific problem I'd need to spend time at the beginning lunging it to examine its movement patterns. There also needs to be some discussion with the owner to get a full picture of the problem and horse's history. The massage itself normally lasts 1-1.5 hours (with the first session taking the longest) but combined with the rest can take up to two hours. On average, it takes about 3 massage sessions for a problem to be resolved. The later sessions take closer to an hour.

This was the mare I massaged yesterday. She's a Draft mix so has heavy, dense muscles to begin with. She's extremely tight in her haunches, so it takes all of my strength and body weight to get a response from the muscles. I also need a stool/mounting block to exert better downward pressure on her. I nearly pulled one of my own muscles in my quest to get those muscles to loosen:embarrassed:
It must be quite a workout for your arms and upper body, you will need a massage after you are done with the horse.:yes:
 

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Discussion Starter · #59 ·
Alright it's been a crazy weekend and crazier still getting everything set up before I leave for college in a few days!!

Pre-show cleanup: Tessie getting a pedicure (aka hoof filing) and a bath. I tied her up while she dried so she wouldn't roll and cleaned all my tack and riding boots.


And the day of the show! Tessa did amazing and I couldn't be happier with the turnout. Pictures are below, plus a link to the GoPro video I took.

I still don't understand why someone thought white pants and a white saddle pad were a good mix with horses. I even have a white horse that loves to get dirty! I had a wet rag and was spot cleaning up to the moment of the show :giggle:


Look at the action in that trot! I'm not sure if this picture was during a leg-yield or lengthening but I'm happy either way.


Canter!


The bow at the end of our performance.


Kisses for pony.


Here's the video.

 

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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
Okay, wow it's been a while! I got a job working with the equine vet here. She only lives a few minutes away from campus, so that's a nice, short commute! :D She doesn't have too many horses right now, but come spring she'll be busy with foals!! Here are a few of the friendly faces I got to meet (I mostly care for the horses staying at the clinic but sometimes make a few farm calls)

This little yearling was in with a torn tendon, but he was so sweet! It took forever to clean his stall since he wanted to be in the middle of everything. He even pawed the shavings around


This mare's name was Prada and was in for a hoof abscess. She reminded me so much of Tessa!!! She was so sweet and snuggly. She was also super playful and grabbed the pitchfork from me to "help" just like my Tessa girl


Now, what I'm really excited for (since the vet doesn't have much work for me at the moment) is the chance to volunteer at a nonprofit not too far away. They are a Christian equine-assisted therapy ranch, so I can keep volunteering with special-needs children like I did at home. But since they take in a lot of rescues, they need help training and riding their horses too. They even have a few foals they bred that they're planning on raising and training. This seems like a perfect opportunity to utilize all my interests. I'm also making contacts for places to board Tessa if I'm able to take her next year!!

This gorgeous dappled buckskin was my ride yesterday. The ranch mostly has gaited horses, so it's definitely a change after being bounced around by Tessa all the time. This mare (Roxy is her name) has never been ridden in dressage, but it's so fun experimenting. She was so sensitive I was pretty much able to ride her from my seat even though she had never been ridden that way before. It's just natural for them to respond that way.



Some of the foals (they have 4 right now). I'm really excited to work with the babies! It's not often I get to work with a horse that has a blank slate. Normally I have to spend a lot of time undoing all their negative experiences and bad habits. The foals are so innocent and curious!!
 
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