Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Compass - A Versatile Obstacle

At Raising The Baar Farm, we are dedicated to approaching the horse's training in ways that help the horses to become Smarter, Calmer, Braver and More Athletic. The vision is to help the horses advance in the most natural way possible by making the most of each session, environment and through daily stimulation. This often means setting up a natural environment where the horses learn to physically balance while traveling on hills, interacting with and without other horses, traveling on differing terrain and through altering schedules. With this as a daily part of the routine the horses grow not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. They become more balanced individuals, better able to cope and learn in the environments they are put into. Part of the development of each horse includes learning obstacles to advance their mental, emotional and physical being. An obstacle that has been getting a lot of attention recently is our "Compass". It was designed to help horses and riders at multiple levels with varying degrees of challenges available to the leader. It has since become a staple in the training program with most horses and students playing 1-3x/week at The Compass.

Here are some but not all of the ways to use The Compass:

Circling On Line:
The human stands in the middle (on or in a tire), this helps the human keep their feet still while the horse figures out the puzzle being asked. The human then picks the puzzle to be solved:
Walking logs
Trotting poles
Canter Cavaletti
10 meter circle
15 meter circle
20 meter circle
Sideways away or towards, over or on front of
And then the gait:

Next the human adjusts the length of rope accordingly and carries on with the session, rewarding when the horse makes an improvement towards the goal. The goal can be whatever you choose that is applicable for your horse and their stage of development, examples of goals I usually pick:
Horse new to The Compass - Rhythm at walk, then trot
After 2-5x at the Compass - Seeking the walk poles
After 2-5x at the Compass - Seeking the 10 meter circle at walk
After 2-5x at The Compass - Seeking 15 meter circle as walk and trot
5-7x - Rhythm at canter at 20 meter circle

Advanced Horses - Seeking the trot poles, seeking the canter bounce
- Canter on 15 meter circle
- Canter on 10 meter circle

Circling while riding:
The Compass is also a great obstacle for riding advancement. Again, the rider has the choice of riding a 10 meter, a 15 meter or a 20 meter circle. With any of these options the visual line of the circle is clearly defined by the spaces between the poles, which helps ad clarity to horse and rider. It is an excellent way to get horses and riders accustomed to riding in larger spaces with a clear and specific focus.
An advanced rider can take advantage of the walk, trot and canter poles to test their steering while negotiating obstacles. This is also an opportunity to help your horse physically become stronger and more balanced. 
For variety the poles can also be ridden in a reverse turning cloverleaf, offering straight lines and turning in addition to precision.

In addition to circles, squeeze, and friendly games, the Compass can also be used for yo-yo and sideways.
Yo-Yo On Line:
Use the 'pie slice" (the space between two sets of close poles) as a guide for the straightness and ending point of your yo-yo game. It also works as a great confidence building squeeze game. If the logs you have arranged are not too large you can change your angle and ask your horse backwards over the logs.
Sideways On Line:
Use the front of the logs as a guide while sending your horse sideways, this is ideally achieved with you staying in the center so that you can work on your distance from your horse. For the advanced horse you can also add sideways towards.
In addition you can ask your horse sideways over the logs.

Riding Yo-yo and Sideways:
Of course these above exercises can also be completed while riding.

In short those are just a few of the things that you can do with a horse and The Compass, it is proving to be one of the most versatile obstacles for horses and humans, of all levels, on the farm. If you decide to add one to your facility, I hope you enjoy the endless possibilities, as we have!
-Kathy Baar

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Preparing Boundless for the Blanket (Originally printed in the Feb 2015 Savvy Times)

Occasionally in our journey with horses it may be appropriate to put a blanket, sheet, cooler or fly sheet on our horses. In this moments it is almost always better to be prepared  than to wish you were. As Pat says at nearly every event where he speaks (taken from the 45+ ‘P’s”) “Prior and Proper Preparation Prevents ‘P’ Poor Performance.” Another great thing about preparing horses for the blanket is that it can help prepare them for their first saddle and/or help you see how the horse’s confidence is with “things” that wrap around the whole horse. To set horses up for success we can take our time with the blanket preparation and help the horse become a more willing and confident partner. The following steps are some ways that I think of preparing a horse for a blanket and the photos are of my new weanling filly who needed this lesson in preparation for winter (just in case).

The first thing and most important for this exercise is to help our horses understand friendly game. As Pat has so often reminded us: “A horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care.” 

Here we are going to play friendly game in two forms; accepting us the human and accepting our tools (carrot stick, string, blanket, etc.).For safety reasons it is often best to start friendly with the stick, this way if the horse is feeling defensive and we misread the situation they will hit the stick not us. Begin by checking that the horse is confident with the stick being rubbed in all zones (neck, legs, belly, tail, etc) and that they don’t have any “yeah but” spots (these are areas where your horse says “You can touch me anywhere but there”). Using approach and retreat build the horses confidence until they are calm with the stick and might even enjoy it, like another horse grooming them.

A great thing to check out next is the horse’s acceptance to friendly game with the stick and string in all zones. This will help prepare them for the motion of the blanket when we toss it over their back and the motion they will feel when trotting or cantering with the blanket on. While playing with this more active friendly game we need to be sure our energy stays friendly, this is how the horse will tell the difference between friendly and driving games as you advance.

Now that the horse is prepared and we feel as safe as possible with the friendly game it is important we can play friendly with our hands. After all it will be our hands reaching between the hind legs for the straps and positioning and adjusting the belly straps! With this in mind it is a great time to over prepare our horses for this reach. Play a little exaggerated friendly game with your hands, rub with some energy and be sure your horse is accepting particularly in zones 3-4.

Another great preparation for the “just in case” situation is porcupine game specifically with the legs. This is great for preparing horses for a malfunctioning blanket that falls partially off, or drops a leg strap. By preparing horses for the possible and probable we can often avoid injuries or emotional trauma in our horses. Using phases for porcupine and a 12’ or 22’ line we can ask our horses to follow a feel/porcupine on legs off of steady pressure from the rope. By using the rope again we get a little more space in case we need to allow our horses to drift or they get a little concerned. Keep in mind even with your hands on the rope it is important to use phases; 1. Hair 2. Skin 3. Muscle 4. Bone and to release for the slightest try. The goal in this exercise is to help our horses understand how to follow a feel rather than do what is natural and push into it. There is some great information on the Savvy Club Website about leading by the leg.

The next preparation or “test” before blanketing can come from using friendly game with a towel or saddle blanket to toss over your horses back. This tests out the horses acceptance of friendly game with our tools (things that are an extension of us, like our carrot stick and string). Applying the same approach and retreat method used for friendly with the stick and string or saddling we can now prepare our horses a step further for the blanket with a towel that falls off much easier (just in case they take a fright). Using a towel also allows us something small enough that we aren’t getting tired “heaving” it over the horses back. Also, sometimes in the winter static can build up between the horses and blankets/towels, if this happens a quick spray of water or water with a hair moisturizer in it will help tame the static so that the horse is not getting shocked!

Our goal is that by the time we get to blanketing it is easy and that we have over prepared our horses for the situation. After all, the quote “Take the time it takes so it takes less time.” Is nearly a Parelli anthem. This way horse and human can relax when it comes to blanket time and trust that the preparation has laid the foundation for success.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Happy Moment of the Day

Laying in the shade beside a hot mineral springs tub in Pagosa Springs, CO with my arm floating in the water and Luke snoozing on my tummy:-)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Traveling with an OTTB!

We spend much of the summer on the road traveling from state to state teaching clinics and camps. It is a great oppertunity for our horses to get exposure and become confident in many different environments. Occasionally however the miles of travel take a toll on the horses particularly our more sensative Thoroughbred. So, last month we experimented with a slightly different approach on feed and had success maintaining his condition plus the feed took up less room in the trailer AND it helped keep the horses hydrated!
We chose to feed a combination of our usual alfalfa hay with some Standley alfalfa pellets and Standley alfalfa cubes, we also added a bit of beet pulp.
The great thing with traveling with the compressed hay cubes is that it is easier to manuever in the trailer and we had less waste from dropped bits of hay. Also, because we soaked the cubes/pellets VERY thoroughly the horses almost had a mash to eat and therefore were taking in more water to help them hydrate, a definate plus when traveling.
The other thing that worked out well was the addition on water, beet pulp and a second type of forage really seemed to help keep condition on the OTTB (Off The Track Thoroughbred). Overall it was a successful experiment and we are continueing to carry cubes/pellets with us as we travel.