Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Just a reflection on Ruben's Training

I think it is appropriate to make comment about Ruben's training of the mustang. Some have asked Ruben if he can do the same for their horse in four weeks as he has with the mustang. The answer is most probably no. The next question is often, "Why not?" Well there are many reasons. It depends on the horse's ability to learn. Some simply learn faster than others. Some are more willing than others. We have been blessed with a mustang that is very willing to trust and to respond to Ruben's training. Some horses have been spoiled in many different ways. Some are treat trained and will do things for a treat. When there is no treat they get stubborn or lose interest in training. Others have been spoiled with excessive stimulation (petting and being loved on) and they are used to getting the reward without ever having to have earned it.

Ruben hws been fortunate to have a willing horse and the horse had no preconceived or learned habits taught to them be well intentioned people. He does not train to a schedule of 30 or 90 days. He trains on the premise of the horse's ability and what you want the horse to know when he is finished. A very important quality of Ruben's is that he is very careful NOT to exceed the horses psychological ability to learn. Their ability is based on many factors that include, but are not limited to their age, physical conditioning, previous training exposure, their ability to learn, their level of exposure to other people and many other factors. To illustrate this point, Ruben trained a very expensive Andalusian horse that was a basket case when it arrived. At an early age (6 months), a trainer had used a cattle pro on the horse and it had learned not to trust anyone and fought even Ruben's gentle techniques. Eventually, Ruben won the horse over and it became a very highly trained and willing partner. He was used in many demonstrations and rode by other family members in parades, exhibitions, etc., before returning to the owner. Was that horse trained in a month or two? Absolutely not.
Ruben is a last chance trainer for many horses. These are horses that had a very uncertain future. He has never lost one of these horses because of his training. Have they been "90 day wonders"? Not a one of them. However, they all are now willing partners and have a secure future as a safe and ridable horse. I personally know of an Appaloosa gelding that was gelded because of his vicious and aggressive nature brought about by aggressive, forceful and over all poor training. Ruben was his third and last hope. After Ruben's training this Grandson of Goer, a Hall of Fame Appaloosa, is a great horse. He stood in a field for two and a half years and I was able to saddle him, put a bosal on him and ride him. He remembered his training and even others were able to get on him and ride him in the round pen.
Ruben trains the mustang on his own time. Ruben usually works the mustang twice a day, first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening for 20-30 minutes. Some days there is not enough light left to video tape the session. This is not his normal routine with a horse in training. The horse usually let's Ruben know when to proceed with training to the result the owner desires from Ruben and their horse.

Approaching the Halfway Point of Training

Ruben in a moment of reflection.

Well, we are entering week 6 of training with the Mustang. Things are looking good. Saturday Ruben exposed him to the sound of gun shots using a friend's training pistol he uses in training his bird dogs. The mustang did great. He flinched the first two times and after that he was fine. Yesterday, Ruben worked him in the large arena. He is side passing prettier every day. He was introduced to jumps, barrels and a rope. I hope to be able to post a clip of the rope training. He stood like a bro after the first couple of twirls and then Ruben had him moving with the rope twirling and being thrown. Then again, Ruben exposed him to a twirling lead line on the second day of training. Next will be cattle and actual roping. Ruben's goal is to produce the most rounded horse for the eventual adopter in Madison.

At this point in the Mustang's training he has been exposed to or trained as follows:

  • Giving to pressure of the lead line and halter

  • Walk on the lead

  • Lateral flexing (always done before The 5 Essential Ground Exercises.)

  • The 5 Essential Ground Exercises: Moving the Front End, Rear End, Side passing, Backing and Stopping.

  • The 5 Essential Ground Exercises transferred to the saddle

  • The basic Piaffe, Passage on the ground

  • The Spanish Walk on the ground and in the saddle

  • Shooting

  • Roping

  • Jumping (inside the round pen and arena, not out of them)

  • He trailers, allows handling/cleaning of his feet, blankets, stands nicely for the farrier

  • Has performed in clinics inside large exposition halls with crowds and noises he was not accustomd to.

  • Exposed to several people petting and stimulating him at one time. (he is a glutton for attention/affection)

  • Has been out on the trail here at HWD

  • Been through Trail Rider Competition Trail in Boise, ID at the Horse Affairs

  • Was used to collect a loose horse and worked it (cornered it/penned it) so that it could be caught.

  • Stands well to be groomed. Again, likes the attention.

  • Is socialized with other horses

  • Exposed to non-equine species such as dogs or all sizes, in the yard and on the trail. Live llamas and deer mannequins in the trail course.

  • He stands for bicyclists and walks through tarp strips. He even tries to eat them if you stand there long enough.

I am simply amazed at how far this horse has come is such a short time!

We are still experiencing a few technical difficulties on transferring the video tapes to DVD. Luckily, we have a friend that is doing it for us, but there is a time lag in getting them recorded delivered and processed and back so we can post them here. We do appreciate the assistance Brian (BK Builders).

There are lots of comments coming into Horsemen's Western Dressage from former students and clients. They are asking how they can help out. It is very nice to hear them say they do a lot of this or that type riding and they are always complemented on their riding or their horses abilities. They tell Ruben, they have him to thank for that. I guess what goes around does eventually comes around. It is heart warming and rewarding to have people come back and are still appreciative after several years and to know they and their horses are still working together and doing great. That is Ruben's goal: To produce a light and responsive horse that is trained for the remainder of it's life.

Until next time (and hopefully with video's and pictures), happy trails. Be safe out there. Spring is coming, I swear it is, hang in there!

Friday, February 22, 2008

First Trail Ride

Well, I will try to recap particular days in the past couple of weeks while we were busier than one armed paper hangers. On the 19th, Ruben and the mustang went on their first trail ride. It was out in the back of the ranch. Nothing special other than it was the first time they had been riding outside an enclosed area. The mustang did great. the next day Ruben repeated this with a purpose. A horse had decided to go wandering and Ruben used the mustang to go out to collect him. In the process, the mustang had his first exposure to working other animals. I watched in amazement as Ruben side passed the mustang to push this horse back into the pasture. I am beginning to believe there is nothing a mustang cannot do with the proper training and trust to follow the cues of the rider. Ruben never forces a horse to respond. He teaches the horse to trust that he will not hurt him or put him is an unsafe position. Then Ruben asks the horse to respond because he can, not because he is being forced. I think this is why the mustang has done so well at the expos over the past two weekends. He trusts Ruben and knows Ruben will not endanger him. I cannot wait to see the final product after the next two months. I know whoever adopts this horse in Madison will have a great horse.

These videos are of poor quality, and from the second day of training. This is the first time the mustang was saddled. Please note that this is NOT a gentled or calm back yard pet. It is a wild mustang experiencing things for a very first time. Ruben's philosophy about a pulling horse sort of goes like this: Let him pull. He will figure it out and then it becomes the horse's idea that standing still is a good thing. There is no way you can hold a 1,000 pound animal that wants to pull away from you. Let the horse figure it out and he teaches himself not to pull and to give to pressure. By the way. he stands perfectly now and is amazingly calm and gentle while being blanketed and tacked up and untacked.

Speaking of the adoption! We have decided that if anyone in the Pacific North West would like to adopt this wonderful willing partner, we will carry your bid to Madison and if you are the successful bidder, we will back haul him for you.

He will have a traveling companion to Madison as Ruben has been invited to perform in the "Dancing With Horses" presentation at the Midwest Horse Expo with one of his finished horses. It is too hard to say if the mustang will be ready for that level exhibition at that time, otherwise we would use him. If you have not seen the intensity and action of Ruben and his finished horses in exhibition, please check out the link to Ruben and Shadow the Dancing Horse on YouTube.com. It was recorded by a friend, Brian, at the opening of the Walla Walla Rodeo here in Washington.

Well I am afraid that is it for now as I have to sort through videos and see if I can get some action on here for you to look at. Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Back to Back Expos kept us busy.

Sorry for not posting for a while. We have had a crazy three weeks. We had back to back expos in Vancouver, WA and Boise, ID. Now it is back to posting and working toward the Midwest Mustang Makeover at the Midwest Horse Expo in Madison, WI.

Ruben used the mustang for most of the clinics in Vancouver and ALL of them in Boise. He had the choice of using a trained horse or the mustang. He decided to use the mustang and not lose 10 training days which is 10% of the total training time we have. We had the chance to meet a fellow makeover competitor in Vancouver, Bill Campbell. He is from Michigan where he operates Common Sense Horsemanship.
Vancouver was crazy with a couple behind the scenes people missing. It was also the first expo put on by Silver Buckle Ranch. http://www.silverbuckle.org/. They did a good job for their first time out and we hope to continue our relationship with this very worthy youth equestrian group. Please visit their web sit and see a great group working with youth and horses. They were excited to have Ruben bring the mustang and let the public know about the Mustang Makeovers and the efforts of the Mustang Heritage Foundation. They set aside a one hour clinic in their main arenas each day for people to watch Ruben and the mustang train.
We were prepared for the worst Friday evening when the mustng enterd the building for the first time. He had never been exposed to the noises and crowds of an expo or the temporary indoor arenas they had set up. We decided to use the over head door rather than the man door. The mustang hesitated momentarily and then ealked right into the exhibition hall and the arena like a pro that had done it a thousand times. We will post videos of it when they are converted to disc.

Boise is a great expo to visit. We always enjoy being part of Horse Affairs for the past everal years and look forward to spending a weekend in March with these fine people. We were visited by Richard Shrake and he was complimentary in regard to Ruben's training methods, knowledge and his progress with the mustang. Below are a few pictures of Ruben and the mustang in Boise on the Trail Ride Competition course. The mustang must have figured he was back home in the wild with live llamas, tumble weed covered arbors, deer mannequins, logs and rocks to cross over and little hills. The trail course, a near by jogging path along the Boise river and the surrounding woods were the setting for a video shoot on Monday morning.
Ruben used the mustang for all his clinics at Boise. He did well but got a little resistant toward the end. We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to validate Ruben's training methods on a raw product virtually untouched or influenced by humans. The custom bosala that Ruben uses are soft and easy for any horse to become accustomed to. Some of the clinics the mustang participated in were: Fitting and using the bosal: The oldest known tool used to train horses; The Five Basic Ground Essentials; Lateral Movements (Richard Shrake particularly liked this one.) The mustang was side passing from one corner of the arena to the other. The crowd loved it.
It was a pleasure and made us all proud when people challenged us by saying the mustang had to have been gentled and halter broke before Ruben got him, otherwise he would not have been able to get as far as he has in four weeks of training. It was nice to be able to play the video of the first day of training when it took Ruben 30-45 minutes just to get the horse from the stall to the round pen. A few jaws dropped when they asked if this was the same horse. We hope to make shorter clips of these "special" moments to share with all of you.
The mustang was on display inside the exhibition hall a lot of the time at the Horsemen's Western Dressage booth. He was a perfect gentleman in the stall and welcomed attention from kids and horse lovers of all ages. We had many questions about him as a horse, the Mustang Makeover Challenge and the Heritage Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management's Adopt a Wild Horse Program. We were also pleased to be able to speak to and share time with the folks from the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program. It was a nice to have them nerby to refer people to who had questions we could not answer about adopting and the program itself. They had plenty of printed material on hand, and a variety of other mustangs that were adoptd, trained and are averyday parts of other people's lives.
these are pictures of Ruben and the mustang "playing" on the trail riding competition course in Boise at the Horse Affairs Expo. Many that watched said he should have entered him in the competition. Note the lightness on the reins and how these two work so well together.

We will post videos as soon as they are available. Hope everyone had a Happy Saint Valentine's Day! Less than 2 months to Madison.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Day 3: First day in the saddle

The mustang (still not named) continues to impress us. He trusts and accepts most anything Ruben tries with him. He is intelligent has learned a lot in a few short days. Ruben takes it slow, but does not treat the mustang differesntly than other horses. Caution is exercised with all horses and Ruben's ability to read a horse is phenomenal. This mustang has yet to buck once. I believe it is because Ruben develops a raport with each horse he trains. The horses learn to perform because they can, not because they are forced.

Day Two: Adding a saddle

Ruben tried saddling the horse and the mustang had accepted and trusted Ruben. He had no rection to the saddle and so it was off to the round pen. Ruben is very careful not to exceed the horses psychological ability to learn. This makes the each training session a lerning experience and gets the lesson across to the horse. Using this method, Ruben starts each lesson/training session with a goal in mind. If that goal is reached in 10 minutes he is basically finished for that session. If it takes an hour for the horse to accomplish the goal of tht training session, then it takes an hour. The bottom line is the goal of the training session. I believe that is why he has such a good response from the horse. Work till you get it and then reward the learning experience. Day two was accepting the saddle and building on day one of leading, grooming, being tied in the cross ties, handling of feet and lunging. Day two also began lateral flexing and giving to pressure amnd moving the rear, front and side passing from the ground.
Below is a poor quality video of the horse saddled for the first time. There are better videos however, I am having problems uploading them. You can see a clip of Ruben and another horse on youtube under a search for Ruben and Shadow

Day 1: Learning to move on a lead line. Day 1: Adusting to the bosal for the first time.

Day 1: Adding a lead line to the bosal. Day 1: Learning to lunge and giving to pressure.

Day 1: More lunging. Day 1: Twenty minutes later, a willing partner.
Training sessions have not yet exceeded 20-30 minutes. Baby steps at first to build trust and learn the basics. Ruben trains in a bosal. The bosal teaches the horse to give to pressure without pain. A bit in a horse's mouth at this point would be a distraction and not a very affective tool.


Well, here is the wild mustang Ruben will be training for the Midwest Mustang Challenge (part of the Extreme Mustang Makeover sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation ). He (as of yet still unamed) was rounded up from a herd in Nevada and made the trip Ewing, IL. From there he made the trip to Missoula, MT and then to Benton City, WA. Upon arrival Ruben looked him over from the trailer windows and decided to get in and halter him. That took a less than five minutes to get the halter on and he let him adjust to it. Ruben then attached a lead rope and lead him to his stall. It took little effort to get him into the stall. I think he just wanted a rest after all the traveling.

Sunday the mustang rested and had a visit from the veterinarian. All the traveling had been hard and he had some swelling in his legs. Otherwise, I think he was happy to be someplace that didn't move for a bit. Little did he know his training was about to start on Monday.