A Blog About My Journey Riding and Training Sora, My Soulmate

Monday, July 19, 2010


It turns out that Erika's finger wasn't that badly hurt and although she's got a splint on it she was up for riding. She trailered her horse White Heart over to my place and I took her on some of the little roads through our tiny historic town, the cemetery where the founder of the town is buried and down to the Mississippi for a swim =)

We had a wonderful time and Erika was impressed by how beautiful our town is, actually I still am too =) I rode Jackson, Lauren's horse, because Sora is still terrified of cars to the point of being dangerous and I just didn't want to undo all the hard work of the last couple of months. Jackson is a blast to ride though, very forward but smooth and beautiful under saddle so I wasn't too disappointed. Other than being attacked by mosquitoes we had a near perfect trail ride. Unfortunatly I think Java's Mom's bad camera luck is catching as I just lost my second camera in only a year and a half. Because of that and since my mom had her camera with her on a road trip I have no pictures of our beautiful day.

Something that surprised me was that Erika, against perhaps my better judgment, brought her two well behaved dogs and they came with us on the ride. I'm used to dogs jumping out of brush and scaring horses but Jackson never once acted nervous even with the dogs leaping out right in front of him. In fact he was calmer than normal and far less reactive than he's ever been. One dog would even see cars coming up fast and walk out happily onto the road to slow them down. We probably had some unhappy motorists but we certainly had safe and happy horses. Overall I was extremely impressed and it felt nice to have them along. They even diffused one nervous and growly dog by going up to it and getting it to play.

Now I just need two of my own lol

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I spent this morning working on rasping Sora's hooves. They are looking great after two days of work but I think I'll need one more to return them to how they should look. Keep in mind that I only rasp a tiny amount off of each hoof at a time to keep it easy for both Sora and I. Because of this if I miss a week (or two) it takes a couple days to get back to where they are supposed to be. However that also means they are certainly not too long or bad in any way, not even long enough for an actual trim at this point.

Now I'm waiting to hear from Erika about a trail ride today. She hurt her finger yesterday and our ride will depend on what she hears from the doctor. I'm sending healing thoughts her way. Hopefully we'll be able to go especially since today is the first reasonably cool day we've had in a week.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Well, this post probably should have been titled Mosquitoes but that's just not as romantic.

Last night when I got home from at work at 9:30 I changed into riding clothes and when out to work with Sora. By the time I got out there it was dark but thankfully much cooler. Sora was happy to come up to the mounting block for treats but tried again to eat and run. This time I stopped her lightly with the Cordeo and then slid onto her back.

We had a wonderful time =) It was like magic riding in the dark with the other horses grazing and fireflies everywhere (and mosquitoes helping the fireflies out adding a certain ambiance). We had some major breakthroughs in forward movement and steering which is nice because it's been a while since much has improved in riding. It sounds like there are going to be storms tonight or I'd probably go out late again because it was so much fun.

Today we didn't do anything, I wanted to but it was just too hot and humid and I spent a large part of the day working on the fence so that we can dry lot our two fatties before they make themselves sick. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little cooler.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two in a Row

Wow, I'm actually updating this blog for the second day in a row =) I went out today very interested to see what effect yesterday's work would have on Sora. I was worried that she would have taken it badly and our relationship would have suffered but it looks like I didn't really need to worry.

I was very impressed with how Sora had generalized the lesson that I don't really want her eating grass. Even though we were in a different place I could tell she was consciously not grazing even though she wanted to and that was a big deal. I could see that we didn't quite have the connection that we have and that she was a little more reluctant to follow me or offer me things but it wasn't a big difference and I know that our whole relationship will morph and change as I do different things so I'm not overly worried about it. Now I just need to especially work on relationship stuff next time.

I continued to work on leading her with only the neck rope and it went well but when I need to put pressure sideways she reads it as pressure back and stops. I don't want to change that because more than anything I need brakes but I think I need to work on the subtleties of the cues and help her understand sideways cues as well.

I tried to work on bow again and had the same problem of her jumping backwards. Hannah suggested trying it with her backed close to a fence so I'll try that tomorrow.

Sora's energy was so much calmer today. I don't know exactly why, either my energy was in a really good place or it was because of the heat but she was thinking and trying to work with me rather than just reacting. Something to think about =)

All in all a good, if short, day!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Road Trip

Today was beautiful and I had fun plans so it was a good day. I drove about two hours north to meet up with the closest person to me that does AND. Her name is Hannah and her horse's name is Maia. It was wonderful and very helpful to see how someone else does their training and I was taking notes lol. Maia is certainly ahead of Sora in training and not only knows more of the dressage movements at liberty but also walks and trots with reasonably good steering and no tack other than a neck rope. She is still a work in progress though so it was great to see a horse that's somewhere in the middle.

After dinner when I got home fresh from my experience there I went out to work with Sora. I had a few goals and managed to achieve all of them though with varying levels of success.

First, I introduced Sora to endo tapping. This is something that's talked about on the AND forum but was something that I didn't understand and was confused enough not to look into it further. However, Hannah really cleared it up and so I decided to add the techniques to my time with Sora. Basically you tap softly on a major muscle until the horse drops it's head and licks or chews. Eventually you increase the time so that you continue even when they drop their head until they reach even deeper relaxation. I managed to get her to do it nicely two times but because of the grass she was looking for excuses to drop her head so it was hard to find an opportunity.

Second, I decided it's time to be able to drive her away from grass if I need to. This was harder to do without making her upset. Even though I stayed happy and patient we're both very stubborn so I'd chase her away and she'd trot a few steps before dropping her head and munching again. Finally I'd increase the pressure and she'd tear across the arena in mock terror to stand in the corner and danger snort at me once or twice and finally come galloping back across the arena to get her treat *roll eyes here* =) Actually though I was pleased with the improvement we made and happy that she would come back to me even after I was "scary".

Third, I wanted to be able to lead her with the cordeo even with the grass beckoning. This went really well and even when she shied once she lightly hit the end of the rope and stopped rather than pulling it out of my hands like she could have.

I'm hoping to work on these again tomorrow and continue working on Bow.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

AND in a Nutshell

I was going to write about my incredible evening with Sora but I have work at 1:00 and I'm short on time so I decided to just post what a forum member used to explain AND to someone new. I haven't really explained what AND is and thought that maybe now is the time.

The AND philosophy in a nutshell.

First, there is no set right and wrong, no rigid rules on how you MUST work with your horses. The idea that is supported here is that the needs of the horse come first, and bitless is promoted, but again, it is not dictated. You are free to choose for your horses.

The main theme is that we are all on a learning journey. We must be open to learning from all sources, good or bad. And the primary teacher for all of us is the horse itself.

The idea is that you listen to the horse. You are observant, you watch for signs and signals from the horse that he/she is being stressed and you try to determine the source of the discomfort. You also watch for signs of composure and "happiness" from the horse and take clues from that.

When it comes to encouragement/motivation food is fine, or whatever your horse finds enjoyable. If food is not what you want to use, then experiment with other means...a good scratch, a kind word, whatever your horse finds motivating. Experiment and play.

You are always free to choose what is right for you, and what you feel is right for your horses.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


So, today apparently was Sora's day to desensitize me.

I put the cordeo on her and my helmet on and walked over and climbed up on the mounting block. For some reason right at the moment I had an adrenalin rush/panic attack thing I still have no idea why, there is still no reason that I can think of.

Sora walked over and as usual stood happily next to the block and took treats from me while my heart raced. I decided to try to get on and just as I got ready to Sora turned slowly and asked me to scratch her butt. I was, at the moment, disappointed because she has never done that before but I scratched her and then asked her to line up again. My heart was still beating so hard that I was shaking and once again Sora calmly walked away from the block just as I got ready to mount. This time I realized what was going on, Sora didn't think I should get on, so I climbed off the mounting block and went and sat in the grass for a while trying to calm down and Sora came and grazed around me. I think she was protecting me

I decided to leave and get myself in a better place. I left the pen and headed into the house but I heard hoof beats behind me and turned around to see what was happening. Sora was racing back and forth along the fence line and when I turned Sora stopped and screamed at me. Sora's not vocal at all so this was really strange for her. At any rate I took her advice and headed back. This time I put her halter on and not the Cordeo. I decided that in case I HAD to stop her I could that way and yet I would very little control of turning etc. I went back the mounting block and climbed on with my back turned to her, leaving it completely up to her whether she wanted to continue with this. I was truly terrified by the time she got there and after feeding her some treats I climbed up quickly and sat there shaking.

Sora proceeded to desensitize me at the walk. She would walk forward a few steps and then as my heart rate mounted she'd stop and stand with her head low, licking and chewing and even resting a hoof sometimes. After a while I was doing better so she marched up to the fence. I got tense and scared when she started to nose the fly spray bottle, sure she'd knock it off and then shy. She nosed it a few times completely ignoring my request that we back up and then picked it up and threw it at the fence, she stood with happy ears clearly saying "see mom? Fly spray bottles aren't scary at all"

After that I relaxed and calmed down a lot. It's amazing what laughter can do. We worked on moving off my aids a little and she was still somewhat sluggish but far better than she has been. Mostly after that amazing demonstration of her trust I was unwilling to try to teach HER anything so she got lots of treats during and after and we cuddled a little after.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Just a short post because it's late. I was able to get some short (and shaky) video of myself riding Sora bridle less. Kids, don't try this at home lol

Fun huh? You probably feel like you're actually there.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Slow Progress

Today was lovely. I finally decided three days ago that I needed to have some goals or I'd just spend the summer running around with Sora doing easy things and feeding her treats. Nothing wrong with that of course but I do have higher aspirations =)
I decided that the most important thing right now is to start working with her more often so that I can be more consistent. I decided to try to do some sort of training her for three days in a row before taking a day off. Along with that basic goal I decided on a few easily reachable goals.

1. Spend a short amount of time during each session on Sora's back
2. While mounted try to figure out what I need to do to encourage forward and turning, especially forward
3. Practice getting Sora to target parts of her body other than her nose
4. Work on desensitizing Sora to a bicycles and cars
What we've already accomplished since starting AND around the end of March =)

-Bravery for both of us, I no longer "shy" when Sora does even for the big ones-Sora's learned how to target different things consistently including my fist, a cone and anything "scary" that I ask her to touch
-She's learned the behaviors Paw, front leg lifts, backing to me, Ramener, Cordeo cues, lowering her head, and lunging at liberty at a trot and canter
and most impressive to me, she'll step up to anything I'm standing on to use as a mounting block and stand perfectly still while I climb on without a single piece of equipment on =)
-Finally she's become incredibly brave about many things and will ignore even the tastiest grass just to be with me (and of course for treats)
-Last goal is to do more updating on this blog =)

The above is of course what we'll look like by the end of summer