Archive | April, 2016

A Very Smart Boy

Oso exemplifies the intelligence and extraordinary work ethic of the thoroughbred. He remembers what we have worked on the day before and (for the most part!) goes to work with focus and relaxation. He seems to enjoy training, and tries hard to please. Because he is now able to hold a consistent rhythm in his trot, and I have started to ask for more impulsion, balance and suppleness in our work. We are now doing 20 meter circles, shoulder fore, transitions within the trot, and changes of bend. He is beginning to be able to engage more from behind and becoming more confident in the contact. Though I have led him over poles and around jumps, this weekend we did our first rides in the ring with poles and cavalettis set up. I have found in the past that young horses occasionally find these spooky and was prepared to introduce him to riding around them slowly. However, Oso was a perfect gentleman, and did not even seem to notice the poles! In the next few weeks, I am hoping to continue to develop his strength in preparation for beginning canter work!

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Volunteers Attend Equine Symposium at UC Davis

Sophia-Katelyn UC DavisWe are extremely excited that two of our volunteers, Katelyn R. and Sophia C. were recently able to represent us at the Equine Symposium put on by UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. They spent a long, but extremely informative day, attending lectures on Disaster Preparedness, Equine Disease Prevention, Colic Prevention and Treatment, and an excellent presentation on Lameness – Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment. They will be sharing the materials received with the rest of the Bear Creek Stables team in Los Gatos, CA..

They were also fortunate enough to attend the afternoon lab session on Lower Limb Dissection working with a deceased horse with Wobblers
Sophia-Katelyn UC Davis3Syndrome. This was a very profound moment for these two young ladies, who plan to study animal science and equine medicine at college. Even with all the many detailed anatomy textbooks that are available trying to understand the dynamics of horse musculoskeletal systems, nothing can compare to spending an hour in a lab environment with an equine surgeon. They commented on the high caliber of teaching staff and senior level DVM students leading the presentations.
The day also included a tour of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and barns, spending time with the new born
foals that are part of the UC Davis breeding program, and meeting with VMTH Director, David Sophia-Katelyn UC Davis2Wilson.

We are happy we were able to provide these young ladies with this opportunity as it is a great learning experience for them working hands-on with the horses in our program.

Learning to Long Line

I have started long lining Oso in the last few days as a way to improve his straightness, ability to bend, and acceptance of the bit. Long lining is a great tool for young horses, as it allows them to work the correct muscles without the weight or stress of the rider. The rider can straighten the horse’s body as the lines run from the bit to tail. Additionally, with the lines supporting the horse from nose to tail, he or she learns that bending happens through the rib cage, and not solely through the neck.

Oso, like many former race horses, is more comfortable going to the left, and has a tendency to get crooked going to the right. He accepts the leg as a bending aid nicely going to the left, we have not quite mastered this concept going to the right! Our long lining sessions have made a difference in the way he is traveling under saddle going to the right.

Our first session, I started by getting Oso used to the lines going over his rump, under his tail, and touching his hind legs. As I got him used to me walking behind him ‘driving’ him forward, I also had a helper walk next to his head for a few minutes to reassure Oso (and to make sure I had brakes!). Once Oso was comfortable with the concept of long lining, we worked mainly in the walk, lots if big circles and changes of direction. we worked on softening and bending to the right, traveling straight with Oso’s shoulders in front of his haunches. Besides a few minor mishaps, (once when Oso decided to turn around and I couldn’t dissuade him from coming to say hello to me!) he was great! I am hoping our long lining work will prove to be an important ‘building block’ in our flat work!

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Volunteers are the Heart of Neigh Savers Horse Rescue

BCS HS Vol2 GroupIt’s 8:30am on a Wednesday morning, typically a pretty quiet time of the day at Bear Creek Stables. But on this midweek morning, the silence is broken by a myriad of questions “How do I put the halter on?” “Can you show us different breeds of horses?” Where are the brushes kept?”

Students from Los Gatos High School are with us, learning basic horsemanship skills, and helping out with the daily care of the rescue horses in the Neigh Savers program at Bear Creek Stables. Most of these Freshman have never been this close to any horse, never mind a 1300 pound, retired racehorse, her back so tall, few in the group can see over it.

But Carabella helps out. She lowers her head so Ben can fasten the halter, and stands patiently while another student cleans her hooves. Nicknamed “Marilyn Monroe” Carabella loves the attention, and gladly poses for photos with the group. Then we work on some ground manners in a small arena. The students lead Carabella, taking turns, learning that the further the horse is away from you, the more control you have. Carabella’s ears swivel back and forth – she is listening closely, and does not take her eyes off her new handlers. Program Manager, Jenny Whitman, demonstrates natural horsemanship “games” with the young Thoroughbred. Working without a bridle or lead line, Carabella moves away quietly, trots perfect circles around Jenny, then comes back to “join up” or connect with her, with subtle cues.

BCS HS Vol1 - GrahamThree hours pass quickly. The students practiced a safe framework for volunteering with horses, and learned about horse nutrition, grooming and daily care. Through one-on-one interaction with the horses, they learn that it is not about size, but leadership that results in a well-behaved and compliant horse.

Which is time well spent, because next week we are practicing manure management!

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Oso Smart’s Breakthrough Video!

Oso is proving to be a very smart boy! The last couple of rides have been nothing short of fantastic. He seems to be starting to understand that his new job is different than racing, and is staying relaxed and quiet the whole ride.

Before our last two rides, our trot work has consisted of short, choppy steps. Oso did not yet understand that I would like him to stretch down into the contact, lengthen his neck, and relax and use his back. Yesterday, after our 15-20 minute walk warmup, we picked up the trot and did our trot half the arena, walk half the arena exercise. I like to do this exercise to make it clear to Oso that once his workout starts, it does not get progressively faster. Every ride, I try to show Oso the way I would like him to carry himself by keeping my hands lowered a bit on either side of his neck, and providing a steady, but soft contact.

By our last trot yesterday, Oso took a deep breath, relaxed and accepted the contact! As soon as he lowered his neck and softened his back, I rewarded him by giving forward with my hands. I trotted another half lap, cooled him out and gave him lots of pats! Today we picked up right where we left off. In our first lap of trot around the arena, he was looking to soften and accept the contact. We were able to get some nice moments going both directions today. What a good boy!

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