Saturday, July 19, 2008

Big Al and Mike at Uldrikson Clinic, Part Two

Once Mike had Big Al settled and paying attention, we walked down to the arena where the Uldrikson Horsemanship Clinic was being held. Mike brought him up close to a corral panel for mounting, but instead of getting on right away, just lets him hang there for awhile.

He's a different horse than he was an hour ago. He's relaxed and feels safe. So let's get that bridle on.

Mike starts doing all the ground work stuff again, but from the saddle. He's bringing Big Al's head around to encourage lateral flexion and suppleness and to help build in a fast one-rein stop. Big Al is probably just letting his big old tongue hang out while yawning with relaxation , but it sure looks like he's licking Mike's boot!

Mike reaches over to pet Big Al on the forehead. Good boy...

You can't see it in these pictures very well, but several other horses and riders are working on horsemanship exercises with Buddy. Mike keeps Big Al busy doing things so he doesn't have time to be bothered by the activity around them or to think about taking over.

Fancy stuff...

... like backing in a figure 8. (Thanks also to Buddy for teaching this horse a whole lot during the last three weeks!)

Lookin' good.

He's just scratching his leg here but his lines are so beautiful, I have to share the picture.

Standing over by the cow pen.

We had a couple of bad moments earlier but they turned out OK. When the cows were first brought up to the holding pen, Big Al had a huge emotional reaction, breaking into a full-body sweat and trembling in every muscle. Mike had me walk him back and forth along the fence, disengaging hindquarters at each turn, then stopping to pet, till he got over his worries.

Later on, a long train went past the length of the arena, fast, rumbling loudly and blowing its horn. Mike saw it early and got Big Al's head turned around so that, when the horse felt he had to go, he just spun around and around in a tight circle like a dust devil.

(Continued in Part Three... )

Big Al and Mike at Uldrikson Clinic, Part One

Mike Thomas picked me up at 5:15 am Saturday, July 12, at the Log Wagon Inn in Wickenburg, and we headed over to Buddy Uldrikson's Horsemanship Clinic near Congress. Buddy had trailered Big Al over to a pen near the arena where Becky, Mike and I planned to work him in the clinic, but when we got to the pen at quarter to 6, we found Big Al hyped up and spacey. He doesn't exactly get jumpy - he's more like a big black battle tank running on high octane, about to take over and do things his own way. Since "his own way" might mean rearing, running you over and hauling down the road sparks a-flyin', he needed to get straightened out before we mixed in with other horses and people. Buddy and Mike agreed that I probably wouldn't be riding him that day.

Buddy saddled him with Mike's beautiful comfy saddle and headed off to run the clinic. Mike knuckled down to help Big Al work through his zoned-out self-protective "you-humans-are-as-flies-to-me" attitude. The sun rose behind them, lending glamour to the scene.

The pictures above are beautiful, but don't really show Big Al's state of mind that morning. The next ones do.

He's looking for boogeymen and doesn't believe Mike can help him out.

Mike said he was "lost". Buddy and Mike both said he has a problem with being herd-bound.

"I'll do it but I don't want to."

"I'm upset and I don't have to listen."

There, that's a little better. Looks like they're dancing.

Starting to get some bend and softness. It'll soon be time to take Big Al down to the arena. (Continued in Part Two... )

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Big Al at camp, end of second week

It's the end of Big Al Dante's second week at summer camp and Derwin and I have come to visit and learn. Buddy starts groundwork with a halter and lead rope.

After some work on the lead, Big Al Dante gets a saddle and I move him in a circle. I'm not holding my hands correctly, and Big Al looks a bit stiff, but we're not doing too bad.

Buddy teaches Al how to get himself positioned by the mounting block. He is a BIG horse so he needs to know this.

Buddy sends him away from the mounting block so he can circle him around from a new position. Big Al needs to get used to humans working from different places, especially higher up.

Now I'll try the lead again. My right hand is dropped because I'm trying to drive Dante's rear, but this may not be necessary. Look how Buddy is holding his hands, more like he's holding reins.

Here Buddy pushes his fingers into the notch behind Big Al's jawline to bring his head around, making the bridling process easier on us height-challenged humans.

Ah, now this is a pretty picture... Buddy takes Al over a pole.

Buddy is teaching me how to manage the reins and my legs while helping us with his lead rope. This helps me know how the horse's movement should feel.

And it feels good!

See how Buddy holds the lead rope in the same way that he'd hold the reins? And look how straight and balanced he is, just like he'd sit in the saddle. Buddy and Mike say that what you do on the ground should be just like what you'll do on the horse's back.

Big Al Dante is looking real fine, don't you think?