Saturday, March 7, 2009

Looking like Springtime in the Rockies

We had some lovely warm days last week with temperatures nearing 70F. Of course, it was during the work week when I couldn't get out and enjoy it thoroughly. Now on Saturday (of course, my day off), Mother Nature sends a reminder that we aren't finished with snow in Colorado. I just took this picture before coming inside to write this post.

Despite the weather, I finally went riding! I loaded Marley into the trailer and we went to a stable that allows people to haul in and use their facilities for a small fee. I worked Marley in their nice, big round pen before the snow started flying. Afterward, I rode him in their fancy indoor arena. It's so nice to have a trailer...freedom!!!!

Let me tell you about my little Marley man. He is 10 years old, stands 13.3 hands high and is cute as a button, and very sweet. He is also very smart, strong, and willful. They say "pony" is a four letter word and Marley could be the poster pony for that saying.

I purchased Marley in June 2008. He had been a therapy horse for 5 years and it was time for him to find a new job. He had become bored as a therapy horse and being as smart as he is, he began taking advantage of some volunteers who knew little about horses. He grew barn sour and had some run off incidents with volunteer riders who tried to help him out and broaden his view of the world. I'm told that sometimes he returned to the barn with his rider, and sometimes without, and that he can run full blast with his head turned so that his nose is touching his rider's knee. Volunteers and staff members changed often and Marley was being handled by many different people. The center decided it was best for him to find a home with one owner who could give him an interesting job to do. I plan to ride and drive Marley, so they agreed to sell him to me instead of several others who were looking for a weekend pony for their kids.

So why did I buy such a naughty pony? Did I mention he's cute as a button? I also had him evaluated by a respected trainer and the conclusion was that Marley is a very good pony who just needs some consistency and leadership. He has already improved a lot with his ground work and manners.

Today was our first ride in several months, coming out of winter, and Marley was pretty good until I asked him to trot. He's a lazy boy and he didn't want to trot. He swishes his tail in annoyance and has an interesting way of throwing his shoulder inward to resist what is asked of him.

He did this shoulder thing the first time I lunged him last year. Fortunately, my trainer was there and had prepared me. I was able to keep him from dragging me back to the barn by running the lunge line around his butt to the opposite side and pulling his head back into the correct direction, while disengaging his hindquarters with the lunge line at the same time. He tried this little stunt twice and both times I was able to keep him from running. He has never tried it again. Once he realizes that he is not in charge, he agrees to be a good boy.

But today when he used his shoulder like that while under saddle, I was a little perplexed, as I've not worked with such issues from the saddle before. Plus, I'm still getting my riding skills & confidence back myself. We ended on a positive note and I'm sure next time will be better, but I do need some help with him.

In April, I'm scheduled to take Misty and Marley for some training at a natural horsemanship clinic and I think that will be very beneficial to us all. I also want to work a lot on the one rein stop WITH disengagement of the hind quarters. I think that will be crucial if he ever tries to take off with me when we are riding away from the barn.

Do you know what I mean about how he throws his shoulder inward? Have you experienced something like this? Any advice? put the kettle on and make some hot cocoa. It's a good night to curl up with a book or watch a movie.


  1. I know the disappointment of all the storms waiting until the weekend to arrive. It's a good thing you have access to that indoor arena. I haven't had any experience with your riding issue, but hopefully someone will have some advice for you. With Arabs, I usually have more trouble getting them to stop than getting them to go.

  2. Wow, I'm north of Denver a little bit and we didn't see any snow at all! I was actually kind of hoping for some, as you know it has been sooooo very dry here. Glad you got to ride and sorry I can't help you with the shoulder problem as I have never experienced it.

  3. I just had to laugh when reading this, Once Upon.
    It is totally Fjord to find the loop holes and do the "best" out of it. And the shoulders, too, as well as using that strong neck.

    You ride English, right? Because I don't know Western, but here's how I would do it.
    I believe that the main problem is that he doesn't want to bend, and he probably loses balance on the circle too.
    He has to learn to bend and also step away from your inside leg, so that every time you feel that he leans on that inside shoulder, you can correct him with the inside leg, and get him to step up and take contact to that outside rein instead.
    So I would work in walk, on a circle, and ask a leg yield from my inside leg. If you have a dressage whip to touch him with on the inside, you'll help him understand.
    Now Fjords are smart, and are the "what's in it for me"-type. So I would use a lot of praise when you get an attempt to do it right. It doesn't have to be perfect.
    And don't you worry, with consistency and leadership you will get a nice guy - I've no doubt about that. It's just that Fjords are very smart. Watching out for possibilites in their own interest.

  4. Oh, and I would also use some bending and suppling exercises to make him round that neck a bit. They often can get heavy on the forehand, and set the neck and poll a bit against the rider.
    You can work a bit with that when you are doing the leg yields. Open up a bit on the rein on your inside hand while you are using the inside leg. As soon as you feel a tendency from him soften, you soften too.

  5. RMYankee, the snow didn't last long here and it is bright and sunny today. Yes, we need moisture really badly. I'm wishing for rain.

  6. Nuzzling, that indoor arena was really nice. Even had little rubber pellets to make the footing soft. No snow today, but not as warm as I'd like. I'm ready for summer, as I'm sure you are too.

  7. HofC, thanks for the tips. I will work on the circles next time. I do have a dressage whip that I carry when I ride him. I'll try that on the inside. Marley is a drafty Fjord; built like a little tank and very heavy on his forehand. I used to ride English, but as I'm getting back into the swing of things, I'm riding in a western saddle for a little more security. I hope to ride both styles. I put Marley into training for 30 days last September with a western trainer. Marley was perfect for him because he is smart and knew his rider was the leader. The trainer even took him out and worked cattle with him and said Marley loved it. That mind of his needs stimulating work. I'm told he is great on a trail ride, as long as he is in company; alone he gets argumentative.

  8. Hi, I found this blog on a Google search...

    Are you and Marley going to be at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo?

    Karen Scholl is going to be there and is looking for demo horses to use in her presentations. It sounds like you have many good things going and Karen can help you with the "next piece" that can make the difference for you and Marley.

    If you will be there and you're interested, please contact

    Karen Scholl Horsemanship for Women