Touch n GO Farm

Whitesburg Georgia

Gigi's Journal
January 10, 2010 PDF Print E-mail

It has been a very cold week here in Georgia.  Frozen buckets, frozen ring, frozen tirds everything frozen including Cassidy and myself.   It is time like this that gets you thinking if you really want to be in the horse business.  Then I think back of when I lived in Pa. for 40 years.  What we are going through this week was the normal winter in Pa.  I try to comfort myself as well as Cassidy but we are in Georgia for heavens sake.  I keep thinking how our training has been put on hold.  I must remind myself that when the weather gets better, I cannot make 3 weeks up of work in 3 days.  I think people tend to do that.  We need to think about our horses and realize that they need the time to get back into a good working condition.  We as riders need to do the same.  When I was younger and I missed a few days, a week or even 2 weeks, I just jumped on as if I hadn't missed a day.  Now, at age 55, it does not happen like that.  My old body needs time to get back in the saddle.  Unfortunately, this comes with age. J  I have really been "down" about our training but I have to remember there are worse things in life that could happen.  So, if you are at that place where I am, think of things that could be worse.  That always makes you feel better.  I am going to try to keep this journal going.  I need Scott to show me how.  For now, I hope all of you are staying warm and good riding to you.

January 7, 2010 PDF Print E-mail

Well, nine months has gone by.  This is the first real entry in the journal since last April. I will get better.  2009 was a training year.  I took a 4 day clinic with Conrad Schumacher which was an eye opener for me.  I enjoyed watching each of his lessons.  He didn't match well with Vinny.  He had me put a flash nose band on him and added a controlling rein to it.  I have never ridden Vinny with a flash.  There is no reason to.  He has a good mouth and never crosses his jaw.  I stayed away from them because being a stallion until age 5; he was very backed off when I used one.  I told my concerns to Conrad but it seems that he wants every horse in the same "attire".  He said that he only ever knew of one horse that could not wear a flash.  Well, being a good student, I shut my mouth and tried to train the best I could.  After the clinic, the first day on him at home he started shutting down.  I always knew this was in Vinny but always trained through it.  I lost Vinny's trust over the clinic.  I couldn't blame him for backing off.  So, off went the flash and on went the "Come to Jesus" moments and within 4 days I had him thinking forward once again.  Thank the Lord.

I was very busy this year traveling for clinics.  Once again, it seemed that every day I was home, it rained and rained and more rain.  While I was away teaching the days were beautiful.  Needless to say, my training has not been steady enough to really move along.  I was still pleased with Vinny's changes and his aptitude with collection. 

I took a lesson with Gunnar in September.  He saw Vinny one time last year.  He liked him a lot.  This time his words were "It is time to put a double on him and don't take a year to work him in it".  He said I needed to start slowing down his trot and canter.  Slowing down is him referring to collection.  We worked some with pirouette work and when I got done I knew what I needed to go home and work on. 

A week later, I was signed up for the Poplar Place show.  This was the first and ONLY show we did in the year 2009.  I just wanted to test his work at 3rd level.  I didn't take him off the property much in that year so he was a bit tense for his first show after a long hiatus.  I was quite pleased.  He ended up with a 66 (with 2 rider errors) a 64 (one rider error and a bad spook) a 68 it was tense but good and then his 1st ride the 2nd day was amazing.  He scored a 72.5.  I knew it was going to be a good score.  It just flowed like last years tests.  I don't ever need to let him sit at home so long.  I have to keep him in the show groove. 

I came home from the show and started introducing him to the double.  We had 5 rides in it and he seemed very willing and comfortable.  Then the downpours came and my ring was underwater for much of the time.  Of course with 2 weeks off, I was not going to put him in the double right away back.  So, we worked again in the snaffle.  I have not been out of the snaffle since November.  I just can't get 2 weeks of consistent work.  I have been able to maintain him but not building strength.  Now we sit with the ring frozen from the week of cold weather which is not supposed to come this far south. 

I am hoping that after this, I can get back into a routine and then ride him in the double again.  I am very careful with the double because too many horses are put in them and put right to work.  That is when resistances start.  I usually ride with the double for a week but on contact on the snaffle, then gradually taking the curb.  I don't really work on movements until I have a good feeling that they are perfectly fine in the double. 

My plans are to show at 4th level this year.  That will depend on how much training I can get done between now and May.  I was hoping maybe to be ready for PSG in the fall of this year but I don't think that is going to happen.  As always, I will let Vinny have his say in the matter.  He is 8 this year.   Remember that basics are the key.  Forward and back "stop and go".  I will always remember Karl saying that to me and it is true.  "Stop and Go."

Once again, I will try to be better about writing in my journal.  I am not making any promises though.  Cassidy said she would "remind" me to make passages in it instead of writing a story.

Speaking of Cassidy, she is doing a terrific job with her training.  We purchased a Georgian Grande in June as a project for both of us.  Brandy is 6 years old and had only been on a trail ride 6 times since she was broke as a 3 yr. old.  She had NO mileage or real training.  She never had a bit in her mouth.  She was a clean slate in my opinion.  She is now going under saddle at w/t/c and our biggest mountain to climb is getting her to really reach for the bit.  She has the build of a Friesian and when she looks that head comes up to your nose.  Cassidy is doing a great job with her but once again, consistency is important and we sure haven't had enough of that.  I will be making journal entries about our progress with her.

Cassidy has also received her scores at 2nd level towards her bronze medal.  She rides Sabia, a Lusitano, owned by Marla Washington-Haddon.  She also was also picked to ride in the Region 3 USDF Y/Rs clinic with George Williams.  She had a great time hanging with the other Y/Rs.  Cassidy was the youngest girl at the clinic.  Hopefully in the spring, she will be able to compete at 3rd level in hopes to get her scores for her bronze.  I am so very proud of my kid.  She works hard and has a deep compassion for training correctly but also enjoying her journey with any horse she is working. 

April 5, 2009 PDF Print E-mail

Where to start?  It has been such a long time since I made an entry in my journal.  I am embarrassed about this but life does seem to get in the way.  Please bear with me as I have almost a year to get through.  It's been almost 1 year and much has happened in this time. 

Last fall, Cassidy and I continued showing with much success.  I think the biggest highlight is when she won Res. Champion at training level in our Region 3 finals.  I have to say that I was so proud of her.  She has come so far with Hannah.  Hannah is a very sensitive mare with much of an attitude.  Cassidy rode a very clean and correct test.  She had gone off course the year before and really had a mediocre test.  What a difference 1 year can make.  I watched my little girl in the victory gallop and tears of joy and amazement rolled down my face.  I always thought how wonderful it would be if she could get to take a victory gallop.  Well in Oct. 2008, my dream came true. 

Vincere had a very successful year.  He won Res. Champion Dutch Horse of the Year at 1st level.  He was 13th over all in the country.  I never played the "who's judging" game.  I just went to shows, did our thing and had an awesome year.  I also won Vintage Champion at 1st level in the Dutch and over all Horse of the Year awards.  I really shouldn't brag about being a vintage rider though.:)

Vinny never ceases to amaze me.  At the Region 3 finals we rode in the worst conditions I have ever competed in.  Please go to YouTube and watch Vincere's Raindance.   He was able to hold it together throughout the test.  We ended up tying for 4th place out of a good field of horses.  Considering this was his fourth, 2nd level test, I was quite pleased.  We had a wonderful 1st level championship ride but one judge had me at 65.00 and the other at 73.00.  Go figure.  We ended up 3rd out of a huge class.  That was the end of our undefeated season.  Vinny came home with a yellow ribbon. 

I went to the Young Horse Symposium taught by Scott Hassler.  Vinny, once again went into the ring with a business like attitude.  Scott was very complimentary of his training. It is hard when you work so much on your own to not second-guess yourself as you train a horse up the levels. 

The week after that, I rode Vinny for the first time in front of Walter Zettl.  He too was pleased with his basic work.  He told the auditors "This is they way a young horse's mouth should look".  Vinny always manages to get a lot of nice foam on his mouth.  By this time Vinny had had enough of the intense work. 

I gave him 2 weeks off and took sometime for me as well.  I was so looking forward to the winter to continue training and get Vinny stronger in his lateral work and start his changes.  I cannot tell you how the weather can put a damper on that.  It seemed we had rain every other day.  If it wasn't raining, the ring was frozen.  When it was nice, I was away giving a clinic.  It was quite a frustrating winter for all of us. 

It is so important to remember that just because a horse is doing well; it can easily take a back slide without continuous work.  When I had some decent weeks to improve his canter, walk transitions we started our changes.  It did not take anytime for him to get his right to left change.  The other one............. was a nightmare.  At first he would change 6 strides late behind.  After a month I think we got it at least one stride late.  I kept analyzing his mechanics and realized that I had to get him aligned better on the left.  He has always wanted to fall into my left leg a tad.  It is nothing a grounds person can see but I can feel it.  So, I took a few weeks to really work shoulder left and haunches right, to improve his strength on the left hind.  I think I managed to get it right.  When I started asking for changes, he changed with the hind leg first.  That was FINE by me.  It would just take me a bit to keep his left shoulder and I knew the right change would be complete. 

Now, he is doing little serpentines changing right to left, left to right, clean each way.  I also went back to counter canter after the change work.  I purposely did not counter canter too much.  Vinny is a very smart horse.  Actually, he is the first horse I felt like I needed to keep the counter canter on a small scale until he learned his changes.  So now, when I ask him to hold the lead he does and will often mix up the changes with the counter canter. 

I am still having problems with the walk.  He gets so tense when we start repeating transitions.  It doesn't matter if it is walk, trot, walk, or canter, walk, canter........he just wants to be ahead of my thinking.  The tension is not a hot tension, it is just him saying "I know what you are going to ask for now let me alone darn it".  The walk was great in the shows because I kept my training more focused on 1st level.  But with the 2nd and 3rd level work, the walk has come back to haunt me.  I KNOW I have to keep working on this.  I do believe with time and patience that it will get better.  It got better last year when he understood his job.  I believe it will get better once again when all this new stuff is old stuff.  I do take much time with him sometimes I am on him for a good hour, not that I am working him so much at the faster paces, just that I am doing a lot of walk in between them. 

I have written off showing this spring and maybe even the fall.  I really want to get my training right and when we are ready, go out and compete at 3rd and 4th level.  I need to keep taking him to clinics and shows to ride as a non-competing horse.  A horse needs to keep going places in order for them to stay solid in the show ring.  

For now, I am so content to stay home and train.  I am still having fun with Vinny and as Cassidy puts it, "You are like an old husband and wife team".  I suppose she means we grump at each other but when all is said and done, I wouldn't want any other horse.


July 16, 2008 PDF Print E-mail

It has been a very busy spring.  I apologize to myself for not keeping a better journal as I intended.  I think that maybe there should be 35 hours in a day instead of 24. 

I have so much to write about that I am not sure where to begin.  I suppose I should start by saying that Vincere had a wonderful spring season.  He is undefeated at First Level so far.  We also ventured out and did Second Level - test 4 for the first time.  We did manage to win the class with a 65.9 but I KNOW we can do much better.  I will explain more a bit later.

First, working all winter on Vinny seeking and receiving my contact paid off during the show season.  He is very easily distracted but when I felt it, I asked him to look for the contact and he followed it down through his neck.  I was able to sit up and enjoy the rides unlike last year, when it felt I was trying to survive them. 

He has taught me to ride as if I have all the time in the world.  Vinny is also very smart.  I have made sure to date that I have trained him to be quick off the leg and ready to go.  That readiness kicked me in the behind when I went into a medium walk.  He would tense and jig because he thought he was supposed to go.  Therefore, for 3 weeks back in April after our first show, we worked at the walk.  I did transition work but when I did a transition to walk I would give long rein, go to medium, halt, give long rein, and the moment I felt tension, I would walk a very small circle.  You see, I created this habit because I was more concerned with a horse that was quick off my leg to go.  I needed to reassure him that when I took the reins, it did not mean to work.  Actually, for a few days, I would ride him two times a day and only do walk work during one session.  The next shows he consistently got 7,8, 9s in his free walk as well as medium walk. 

I have worked on the "rubber band exercises" (forward and back) much of the time.  In the first show, the little collection after the lengthened canter was a bit difficult for him.  So in all paces, we worked on this through the spring.  When I did a forward/back canter, it would take 5 strides to try to get an organized sitting canter again.  Sometimes we would break to a trot.  Now, I close up my knees, and he is back in 3 strides but in a feeling that he is really sitting and not using my hand as a 5th leg.  At first, it was hard for him not to and I really could not blame him.  I also used my voice to help him understand what I wanted so he did not confuse it with a trot transition which horses are bound to do at first.  I would say, "And back, back, back."  I know you might think this crazy but I use my voice very much for training.  If I want him to energize, I use my legs and say "hind leg".  Sometimes I just have to say "hind leg" and it is there. 

Circus trainers have two aids to train with: the voice and the whip.  Reading and watching my in-hand books and videos, the author will say many times that using your voice is essential.  It helps with the timing.  With my voice, I have trained all my horses to lengthen on the lunge line.  It is not what you say so much but how you say it and apply it day after day. 

Now I will tell you what happened in our 2nd level test.  I had schooled all the figures but I NEVER put the test together at home.  That was a BIG MISTAKE with Vinny.  He is very sensitive besides being smart.  He entered the ring thinking, "First level; piece of cake."  As I am riding him through the first shoulder-in, renvers movement, I sensed him feeling a bit confused.  Then came the halt and rein back.  His rein backs are ok but on that day, he was not happy when I asked for it.  Then came the medium walk, to shortening and then turn on the haunches.  You remember that I was working to build his confidence at the walk?  Well, I lost it through that tour of movements.  He was happy to have a free walk but when I asked him to go medium into canter, it was as if he said, "This is not how the test goes" and started to leap and buck 4 to 5 times.  I told him "Knock it off!" and he continued his test (serpentines with walk transitions) like it never happened.  I made sure I petted him for the next walk-canter on the left lead.  We finished the test okay.  I told him I was sorry and I scratched the next days 2nd level test.  I knew what I needed to work on over the summer. 

So, we are working on our walks adding in the "school walk" which is a very collected walk then into medium, back, and free walk.  We are working on "short step" trot as well as canter walk and medium canter back.  I am trying to step up the pressure a bit more with quicker transitions.  I am also doing exercises to prepare for flying changes in a month or so.  Before that, I intend to do a little jumping working on figure eights over a low fence so he learns to change in the air. 

I must say, I enjoy training this horse.  He is not a horse you can drill.  Many horses I have trained were ones that needed drilling.  He needs me to be a little smarter than him.  I hope that I will be able to bring some insights of the next months in my journal. 

Until the next time.........................always be fair, forgiving, and give great praise.


March 23, 2008 PDF Print E-mail

Last night while going through old pictures to add to the new website, I found a picture of Wendel (Fahrenheit) cantering to the left during his first competition at 1st level.  It was surprising to see how conformationally challenged he really was at age 6. Looking back, I remember that a foregirth was needed to keep the saddle from sliding up on his shoulders.  Wendel was very high-hipped and had such a weak loin area.  As a matter of fact, his whole back was very weak.  He almost looked sway-backed. 

Later I found a photo showing him trotting in the same direction two years later.  The improvement in his body physic was amazing.  Changes in a horse's body occur slowly. As a trainer, I knew Wendel was getting stronger and more athletic but really didn't notice the dramatic change in his muscular build that developed over time.  He definitely had a much stronger back.  It is not just the "before and after" competitive success and the amount of ribbons earned.  It is the realization that with patient, correct training, horses are able to become strong enough to perform the things we ask of them. The difference in the two photographs was striking.