Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Week Two Update

Week two of Nayborly Farms Summer Camp went by without a glitch. In fact, it was just your average busy week of farm life, riding, and good weather. This is what Huxley thought of it...

Below: The horses are all turned out in fields across the 31 acres, and the horses in the back field sometimes have to give us rides in from the pasture. This time Tiny kindly gave Chesna's legs a rest and Cowboy and Skooter practiced ponying. The only rule for this cooperative effort is that everyone must have "happy ears" to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Below: Here the boys wait in the barn for their turn to ride. "Patience is a virtue," and we make sure that every horse at Nayborly has their fair share of patience. We like it when the horses stand quietly and comfortably in any given situation, as this translates over to riding. If they throw fits and fuss when we expect them to stand tied, we wait to untie them until they have calmed down. For horses who don't tie safely, we have a highline in the show jump field were they can move around and pull without hurting themselves or others. This is great for herdbound horses. As you can see, these three don't have any issues standing around, though occasionally the odd brush or saddle pad lying around the barn falls victim to their curiosity.

Below: We are fortunate to live in a beautiful part of Washington AND have access to so much great riding land. Our property is surrounded by timberland and wildlife preserve. Our neighbors are the best and let us romp around their Christmas tree patches and hay fields. We often see wildlife out on our rides, which is fun for us and great exposure for the horses. Animals we often encounter include elk, deer, bunnies, birds, coyotes, and occasionally skunk and bear. We joke that if we were hunters we'd have quite the trophy collection... By now lots of the "regulars" see us riding and don't even move. Both of the pictures below were snapped during the same ride via horseback (a type of photography we have mastered over the years. The hardest part is keeping pony ears out of the shot and making sure the camera makes it back in one piece. We have designated camera safe horses and also blacklisted those who aren't aloud to carry such precious cargo).

Below: Eric and Murray knocked over a dead tree in the Haflinger turnout, chopped it up, and built us a new cross-country jump! Pippin tests it out while Eric takes a break in the shade (kids, don't try this at home, at least not when your parents are looking).

Below: Daisy braves the boats and tractors on her way out on a trail ride. She is proving to be a great little riding horse and is now working on getting more miles under her belt while improving her repertoire of skills.
Below: Cowboy's also trying to get in plenty of ride time. The woodpile on our neighbor's property can be troublesome for a few horses, but Cowboy got up close and personal without much fuss. With clear direction this little horse is pretty much good as gold. He is working on things like giving to the bit, moving more crisply off aids, and leading the way past "scary things" out on the trail.
Below: Katie's goal is to relax when she's on trail rides and learn that she has to work through her issues. Here Katie looks magestic, though perhaps not exactly calm, on one of our favorite trail riding spots just around the corner from home.
Below: Kelsy and Huxley. A post about Hux's (and Chai's) first show of the season is coming soon!

Belle, the other Haflinger mare, continued to work on desensitization during week two. Both she and Daisy are now very easy to catch in the field, in fact they even walk over to us. We have been riding Belle walk/trot in the arena, but she is still startled easily by leg cues and needs to let down a lot more. The best thing for her at this point is repetition: we shake the flag at her until she doesn't react, we jump next to her until she doesn't move away, we get on and off until she is relaxed about it, we trot until she is willing to stand calmly... Slow and steady wins the race with this mare as we teach her to give to pressure better and accept more and more stimulus. She has definitely made overall progress, but nevertheless we know that she requires more work to truly be ok with everything we are teaching her. This may be attributed to the way she was raised, her natural temperament, but most likely is due to the fact that she spent her first twelve years living her own life without having to cope much with people and their strange requests.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Flooding"

Last week Cheryl recommended we try a technique called flooding with Daisy and Belle (the Haflinger mares in for training who've had little handling and were nervous around people). Cheryl learned this technique years ago for timid show dogs and thought it may help (and certainly not hurt) the two mares. The way flooding works is someone holds the animal in a safe location, a group of people line up nearby, and then one at a time people from the line walk up to the animal. When a person reaches the animal they offer them a treat and stroke them as they walk past. The line of people continues to "flood" the animal in this manner until it becomes noticeably more relaxed and accepting of contact. This seemed like a great way for the mares to get exposed to people besides their usual handlers and also for them to associate people in general with positive rewards (treats and petting).

Since we needed a group of volunteers, during the potluck lunch break of our Trail Challenge we asked some of our friends and fellow riders to help out with the flooding process. We appreciate everyone who volunteered to socialize with the mares; both Daisy and Belle responded very well. Daisy is a little bit head-shy so it was good for her to have people stroking her face. She also didn't mind when towards the end of the session groups of people stood around touching her sides and chatting. Belle, the more nervous of the two mares, did better than expected and even appeared to enjoy herself. It is nice to see that within a week at Nayborly she has made positive changes. Also, true to their food-loving breed, neither mare ever refused a treat offering. Thanks again to everyone who helped out!

Below: You can see from her expression that Belle was comfortable with strangers feeding and petting her. She became more nervous when groups of people approached, but even then she kept her composure.
Below: Cheryl and Belle talk about the experience...
Below: Daisy was unconcerned with the flooding from the beginning, and after a few minutes she decided to take a nap...

Keep in mind that if you ever try this technique or something like it, your horse should always have an out. That is, they should always be able to move away if they are too scared. If you confine a frightened horse they may react dangerously by kicking, striking, biting, etc. Also, the point is for the horse to choose to accept the process on their own rather than be forced to accept the process.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nayborly Farms Trail Challenge Results

To follow up the horses training themselves post here are the first through fifth place finishers of the Nayborly Farms Trail Challenge. We had around fifteen horse and rider sets, not bad for an invitation only Trail Challenge. All horses and riders handled the trail course well, and I think almost everyone braved crossing our creek and going up and down the hill. Thank you everyone who came, now get out there and ride your horses!

In fifth place we had Denise riding Chez.

In fourth was Tiffany on Roanie.

Third place was Rebekah (in her first ever riding competition) and Pippin the wonder pony.
Second place was Patti riding Arron, her practically perfect pony.
First place went to Peggy with her horse Tiny. The pair led the Gambler's Choice challenge from start to finish with their excellent use of strategy, skill, and smooth riding.

And finally a group shot of almost everyone who attended...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Horses Train Themselves

In preparation for the Nayborly Farms Friendly Trail Challenge last Saturday, we set up obstacles the day before the competition. Some of the geldings were turned out in the same field as the obstacles. Apparently, if you leave horses alone they train themselves!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Week One Update

It's been just over a week since the first campers arrived at Nayborly Farms, and a lot has been accomplished up to this point. In this post we offer a brief introduction of most of our campers and share some of the photos we took last week.

DAISY: Daisy is a seven year old Haflinger mare. Previously a broodmare, she arrived with her friend Belle to be started under saddle. Though she was bit nervous around people at first, she is coming along quickly and already has made the transition from being a "semi-wild pony" to being very tame and friendly. Below is a photo of her first bath on day two at Nayborly.

Below is Daisy's first ride with Kelsy last Wednesday. She took everything in stride and has already mastered walk, trot, canter, basic steering, and riding out on the trails.
BELLE: Belle is a twelve year old Haflinger mare who was a broodmare with very little handling. She is here to become easier to catch, more confident around people, and to be started under saddle. A week of desensitization, routine handling, cookie eating, and work in the roundpen has already made a big difference though there is a ways to go. Below is a photo of one of the many ways we have encouraged Belle to relax and get used to people; she helps us with the chores!

Below is Belle's first ride (or rather "sit-on") last Wednesday. Because she has had so many years without much human interaction and she is skittish of our actions, we are taking things slower with her to overcome any of her fear. She is not spooky, but rather just unsure of people and all the strange things we do with her!
COWBOY: Cowboy is a green eight year old QH/Arab gelding here for more general training. After a quick reminder course of basic cues and cooperation, Cowboy has been leading trail rides, jumping, working on softening to the bridle, and overall is proving to be willing, fun, with personality plus.
TINY: Tiny, a QH gelding, is here for a month to get going again after a winter out of work. We are clocking more miles on the trails with him as well as refining the cues he already knows. We enjoy Tiny for his easy going disposition.

FLECHA: Flecha came just for a week to get the engine running smoothly again after a season off. He is a dependable horse and great to work with, but he was surprised to have to go out on so many rides in a row!

When we have time we'll type up some posts on specific training episodes we have with the horses and/or on training in general. As much as the horses learn from us, we learn from them in return (sounds tacky but nevertheless is true). Feel free to ask questions if you are curious about anything.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Yielding

It seems like an eternity has passed on the farm since we got home, but a little over a week ago we were still finishing school in Bellingham! Nayborly Farms Summer Camp is off to a good start, and to kick off the posts we wanted to share the following two pictures...

One of the first things we establish with all incoming horses is the notion of personal space. If you watch horses in a herd, you can determine which horse is the leader by observing their body language and use of space. The boss horse does not get pushed around by the other horses; the other horses yield ground to the boss. If your horse does not yield to you when you ask (when you apply pressure), then you are not the boss. This is how horses work, and as safe horse handlers it's important to establish your personal space bubble and defend it if necessary.
The first picture shows Chai, a seven year old paint gelding, yielding to Mikey, our twenty-four year old tough guy Haflinger. Chai is a lovely little horse we have for sale on behalf of owner, and for the past few years he has lived alone or with a horse that he bossed around in the field. Here at Nayborly he has had to integrate into a large group of geldings and in the process be reminded how to move away when he's told.

The second picture shows Kelsy turning Katie, a four year old Draft cross mare, on her haunches. Katie, who is already well started under saddle, is here for remedial trail training. Before doing any riding, Kelsy decided to establish a large personal space bubble with Katie on the ground. After several turns around the roundpen, this picture resulted with Katie moving away from Kelsy with very little pressure.

Notice that in both these photos it is very clear who is yielding whom. With any horse you work or play with, create and maintain an appropriate personal space bubble to avoid finding yourself in 1500 lbs. of trouble!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Home, Home on the Range

Nayborly Farms Summer Camp is officially up and running for the summer! We returned home to the farm this week and immediately set to work around the property. Today our first batch of campers arrived, and tomorrow we will put them all through their paces. Check in to our blog from time to time if you want to keep updated on Nayborly Farms activity!