Flamenca's Diary

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Tuesday 7 November 2000

8.15 p.m. Goldner Horse Transports arrive with Flamenca on board. It is nearly dark, but she comes off the truck confidently and quietly. I put her in the double stable/stall to allow her to settle in for the night. She seems a bit worried and restless and doesn't want me to touch her a lot. I leave her alone for the night after a last check around 11 p.m.

Wednesday 8 November 2000

Flamenca obviously hasn't eaten much during the night, but seems nicely settled down by now. I am giving her her first Clicker Training lesson in the morning, out in the small arena/paddock. She gets the idea of targeting a plastic bottle very quickly and starts following me around a bit. Then we play PNH the friendly game for a while, which she enjoys. Back to the stable. Over the first few days she is very jumpy each time somebody passes by, either in the car or at foot. But she accepts the dogs quickly, and after 3 or 4 days, doesn't bother anymore about cars and even the big trucks and motorcycles rushing along the paddock.

Thursday 9 November 2000

She greets me with a little nickering in the morning and gets lots of scratchies and praise. More targeting. She is now able to touch the target deposited on the ground. Starting to swing ropes around her. She is a bit nervous about it, but stands most of the time. Some leading exercises, and introducing stopping upon a short whistle and my body weight shifted backwards. Head-lowering, and HQ yields.

Put her into the small arena (about 1 acre), together with Magia, which seems perfectly OK for several hours. But when Di and I come back from a little ride (Harry and Orlando), Magia has chased Flamenca through the fence into the big hay paddock. She is standing in the middle of the 20 acre field, looking lost and unhappy. I am a bit worried whether she would let me catch her (Di has caught Magia and locked her in the stall), but I can walk straight up to her and put the halter on.

Friday 10 November 2000

Bill Reed shoes Flamenca for the first time in her life. I am standing at her head to give her comfort. She is a bit wiggly for the right hind leg, but settles down pretty quickly, and the rest is nice and quiet. Miss Teak gets new shoes as well, and is left in the neighbouring stall, so they can make friends. No squealing or kicking, they like each other immediately.

Saturday 11 November 2000

Another CT lesson. Extending targeting to throwing the target several meters away. She walks over and touches it consistently. Introduced the verbal cue "touch" and pointing at it. Started circling game, which is very difficult for her in the beginning. She becomes very nervous and tense, trying to evade even the slightest and calmest cue and even thinks about rearing. We patiently and quietly work through it until she agrees to calmly walk off on the circle on both hands. More HQ and FE yields. Backing upon light hand pressure on her nose from right and left side. Introducing handling from the right side, which scares her a bit for a few minutes. The backing in general is very soft, with lowered head. I am really amazed by her eagerness to please and how very easily and quickly she understands everything new. Several things were really very good, like head-lowering straight to the ground, just following my hand (no physical pressure), and stopping, which she did very softly and fluently, with relaxed head and neck.

Sunday 12 November 2000

Greg takes photos of our clicker session and PNH games. Asked for tail smelling at liberty, which she got very quickly, too! I can throw the target several meters away, and she walks over and touches it. I then want to teach her to retrieve, but she persists in abundantly licking the target, instead of trying to mouthe or bite it! OK then, we will take it.... Photos are here: http://www.lemis.com/yvonne/LaTigre.html

Monday 13 November 2000

We are trying circling at liberty. I am very surprised that she stays with me, even though there is no confinement. Remarkable that she seems very tuned in with me, and always keeps her head slightly bent inwards, with her full attention on me. Looks nearly as good as the horses in Alexandra Kurland's video! Working more on stopping upon a whistle.

Thursday 16 November 2000

Circling at liberty doesn't work that well anymore, as she tends to make the circles bigger and bigger. So quite some walking involved for me, and I decide to put her back on the 12" rope. Introducing change of hands on the rope, at the walk first. Boy, is that scary!!! But she settles down within 5 minutes and gives me some very nice and elegant changes in both directions. We try a step or two of sidepassing. Works. Great! FE yield still not very good. And I have to be very careful about my cues, she can freak out on nothing at all.

Friday 17 November 2000

First saddling, still assisted by Di. She can be convinced that we don't want to harm her and accepts to stand still and lower her head after a while.

Saturday 18 November 2000

Lungeing with carrot stick. Oops, that seems waaay too scary! Di (who rides Miss Teak in the same arena) watches and is a bit worried about all that dancing and pracing and beginning of rearing. But I can manage to calm her down and get some quiet walks on both hands. Then we saddle her again and I want to try to mount her for the first time. No, thank you, much too scary! We decide to play it like for an unbroken horse and spend quite some time getting her used to me standing at her side, lifting my arms, flapping the stirrups, tapping on the saddle, then gradually touching her, moving her closer step by step, jumping up and down at her side, etc. We call it a day when she allows me to put one foot in a stirrup and stays calm for a few seconds.

Monday 20 November 2000

More preparatory work for mounting. She is not worried about saddling anymore, but it takes more time to make her settle down for mounting. In the end I can go up halfway and stay there for a few seconds with her standing still. In between we always do a bit of backing, friendly game, headlowering by following my hand, tail smelling etc. She is slightly confused in the beginning, as it was all "stark naked", but gets used to it very quickly. She even starts offering me several times a step or two sideways upon a driving cue! Wow!

Tuesday 21 November 2000

We try again, and this time I can swing my leg over and sit on her for a little while. We do some mounting and dismounting until she is not worried anymore. Then a bit of work with a plastic pipe with a plastic bag tied to one end (falpping around quite a bit, as it is a windy day). Takes Flamenca about 15 minutes to get over her snorting (she is at liberty), but in the end she comes close and touches it. Then it isn't a problem anymore to ask her to lick it.

Friday 24 November 2000

More mounting and dismounting and sitting on her back passively. We have put Yana's treeless saddle (Torsion) on Flamenca, but she definitely hates it, and I have the impression that my seatbones are pinching straight down into her back, so we change it against the UltraFlex, and she is happy with this and calms down immediately. Then Di starts leading her around a few steps. She tenses up but gains confidence as I stay quiet and relaxed. I start touching her with the carrot stick all over, then swing the string over her back and around her legs. Then do it at liberty. Then walk all around her, swinging the stick and string, tapping the ground, swinging it over her back. She is a bit nervous about it and shivers from time to time, but stands still nicely for me. Great progress!

Saturday 25 November 2000

More standing still with me in the saddle, then leading around. Then Di lets her walk around herself in a small circle on the PNH rope. Upon a little kissing sound, Flamenca offers me a nice little pacapaca, then goes into a trot. I will have to work on my body position.... Her gaits are very comfortable, even the trot isn't the slightest bit bouncy!

Tuesday 28 November 2000

After saddling her and leading her around for a few steps, I hop straight on. Checking on the calm down cue, which comes like a flash of lightning! Di leads her for a circle or two, then we unhook her for the first time. She walks off quietly, but has a tendency to come back to her "dummy" (Di and the bum bag). She is a bit unwillig when I steer her away from her security blanket, but does as requested. Goes into pacapacas very willingly. She is a bit tense, but as light as a feather and stops on the slightest lift of one rein. I use it in combination with whistling, and CT her immediately after. Boy, does she know that procedure! ;-) Seeing Di's eager look, I ask her whether she wants to give it a try, and, yes, she does! The two get along very well, though after a few minutes, Flamenca obviously has enough and becomes a bit wiggly. Di confirms my feeling that, despite my little black rocket being high-strung and a bit jumpy, the rider feels perfectly safe and comfortable! It shows now that Flamenca has perfectly learnt the standing still lesson for mounting and dismounting, as she stands like a rock when I mount her in the middle of the paddock without assistance. Such a good girl! Here are some photos: http://www.lemis.com/yvonne/flamenca.html

Wednesday 29 November 2000

Di has come over with Glory, her Welsh pony, to go out into the big, 20 acres hay paddock together. Saddling and mounting goes well, even though there is nobody standing in front anymore. Flamenca just stands there and waits for the go-forward cue. Once through the gate and out in the big open air, she is all eyes and ears and rounded neck, but still listens to me fairly well. Glory is as excited as an old flea and gives Di an interesting time! We start by walking quietly (well, more or less) along the fence line and give her time to check out all the scaryk unknown things, like the round bales of hay, lying around everywhere, the other horses galloping towards the fence, the uneven ground, the company horse, the dogs rushing up to us from behind. I had locked them in, but somebody let them out again. And to make the challenges complete, Yana is sitting in a tree, playing the flute..... Flamenca settles down very quickly, walks on a loose rein, gives me nice halts on request, head-lowering etc. Perfect. We then try a little pacapaca, which is a bit tense, but still OK. Glory does his best to show off, trotting sideways, trying to canter off etc. He just ignores Di's wish for him to foxtrot, but she just laughs and is happy that at 19 he is still so full of wits. We walk around the paddock 3 times and then call it a day. Once she is unsaddled, I ask Flamenca to go close to the float and have a sniff. She is so nice and relaxed about it that I ask her to step up. Lots of CT's and praise, as she handles this perfectly well.

Thursday 30 November 2000

We are saddling Glory and Flamenca and take them out to the big hay paddock again. Flamenca is perfectly calm and responsive, but can't do much paso llano, due to the very rough ground. So, we practise walking, stopping, walking in front and then along the roadside fence to get her used to cars and trucks. No problem. So we decide that next time we will go for our first ride out in the forest. I wonder what she will think of the kangaroos.... To finish the session, we put Glory on the float and ask Flamenca to load beside him. She hesistates for a minute or so, but then quietly walks up, stays in and calmly backs out after a few minutes, when asked. I am very happy with her progress and general behaviour.

Tuesday 5 December 2000

After a long weekend break, we are putting Flamenca and Glory in Di's float and take them over to Kuitpo Forest for her very first ride out. She is all ears and eyes when she sees the new environment, but stands nice and still for saddling and mounting. Walks off a bit briskly, but calms down within a few seconds. We quietly walk along soft trails, Glory in front when Flamenca hesistates. Everything goes really well, she is calm and settled and starts to respond to very light rein cues. I am introducing light leg cues (which made her very nervous in the beginning) and soon she doesn't mind at all. We walk up and down gentle hills, along the forest, over meadows and a little bridge, through gates and around the scary bark hut. She does everything very willingly for me after only a slight hesistation from time to time. I can feel how much she trusts me. Di is amazed how well my little black girl handles all these new situations. Flamenca is a bit sweaty after our half-hour ride, but she has perfectly hidden whatever nervousness was inside her! She really has true brio! Back into the float without problem and then I give her a nice reward meal, made of oats, lucerne chaff and carrots. Yummi!

Wednesday 6 December 2000

Even though it is pretty hot, we go out for another ride today, in another section of the forest. Flamenca has a very interested look around again. We walk over to the kangaroos' favourite siesta spot, but they have all withdrawn into the shadier parts of the forest, so no encounter of the strange kind today! We are taking our way into the forest over the little cavaletti at the entrance, then walk along the road. The cars and trucks don't bother her at all. We go through lots of different terrain, up and down slopes, through tight spots - she allows me to steer her very elegantly between the trees - over uneven ground, covered with branches and logs. Her eyes nearly pop out when we see a big dead tree and cows of another colour than the ones on our property *g*, but she walks along with only a slight bend in her body. Glory, usually as laid back as can be, thinks that Flamenca is right about monsters and does a bit of dancing and prancing, but quickly comes back to his usual quiet self. From time to time I try to get her into a little pasollano, but she is still a bit tense and goes into some kind of trot. So we take it very slow, and then things work better and better. But we mostly walk, as I want to familiarize her with that new way of being ridden. She is still a bit nervous about being touched on her rump and croup, so from time to time, I gently stroke her a bit, and things get better each time. After a few tries, she doesn't speed up anymore. Flamenca walks out very nicely and eagerly at Glory's side, on a loose rein (PNH hackamore). On a light kissing sound she accelerates and immediately comes back upon a whistle and a light lift of one rein. I feel completely safe and confident on her - never felt this way on such a young horse! She is absolutely amazing, sooo much better than I even hoped!

Saturday 9 December 2000

I tried the new saddle on Flamenca today, it's the treeless saddle from Rebecca Underwood. Boy, didn't she like that one! But I admit it is too long for her short back. And then, on top, a snaffle in her mouth - definitely that was too much. She didn't even let me get on board, and once I was there, she was very wiggly. So I put on the UltraFlex again, but she still haited the bit, stuck her tongue over it and threw her head around quite madly, rushing off at a big pacapaca. So, back to the PNH hackamore, and she settled down immediately. That will teach me to go too fast! Greg saddled Miss Teak, and we walked around the hay paddock together. That was fine, despite Miss Teak's little fun demos, and the dogs chasing a rabbit right under our noses and similar things. But Flamenca stayed relatively calm. Back at the stables, Greg held her for me while I mounted and dismounted several times to get her quiet again. When she stood, I quit.

Monday 11 December 2000

Out in the hay paddock again with Miss Teak. Half of the round bales are gone, so we have more big open space to move out. Flamenca walks off quietly, as usual, after having been wiggly for mounting again. No problems at all, even when squeezing through narrow passages. She doesn't have problems when Miss Teak is trotting off in front, but stays calmly at a walk. We are doing a few rounds in the arena, and I try to introduce a few basics things, like FE and HQ yields under saddle, backing and flexing and even a bit of sidestepping. Have to be very careful about my cues, as she tends to get upset very quickly when confused and either wants to rush off or even get into a bit of rearing. So, I am keeping it as quiet as possible and get some nice responses. The things she knows, come very nicely, for example for the calm down cue, her head is pretty close to the ground already! In the end, Greg is holding her for me for some mounting and dismounting, and she seems to overcome her nervousness. After a few tries, she quietly stands when he holds her at the end of the rope.

Tuesday 12 December 2000

Di comes to pick us up with Glory for a ride in Kuitpo Forest. We are doing the section at Razorback Road again, and Flamenca seems to recognise the place. She stands beautifully for mounting this time, and off we go, as happy as can be. I ask for a few slow pacapacas, and things are working out a bit better by now. From time to time I even get something a bit faster, but she obviously still is quite busy with getting this new style sorted out. Di and I swap horses, as I want to try to get Glory to foxtrot again. I am not very successful, but Di nearly laughs her head off, seeing me and my long legs on tiny Glory! She has lots of fun with Flamenca, who walks nicely and gently for her. As Di says: if somebody had told me a few years ago that I would ride a nearly completely green horse out in the forest with only a halter on, I would have said he's crazy - and here I am, feeling completely happy and confident! Flamenca visibly wants to stop and have a pee, but somehow doesn't dare to do this with a rider, so she waits until she's back in the float....

Friday 22 December 2000 to Thursday 1 February 2001

We have been out for about a dozen of rides out in various forests, interrupted by groundwork and trick training in the arena. Flamenca really enjoys especially the tricks. In no time at all, she learns how to lift a front leg on command and hold it up in the air. She particularly loves doing this while standing on a pedestal with her front feet! This means, of course, that her handlers have to be a bit careful not to find themselves with her leg in their pocket, as she tends to offer this behaviour without being asked! She has also learned a lot of beautiful movements at liberty. The shoulder-in is feather-light, same for HQ yield. The FE yield seems a bit difficult to her, but we are working on it. Just for the fun of it, I have asked her to come running after me when I slap my thigh, and she loves this, also stops very nicely on my body language. She got pretty heated up with this exercise and started bucking and kicked with enthusiasm, so I insisted on her stopping about 2 m away from me, which she understood immediately.

Friday 9 February to Friday 2 March 2001

We have decided to abandon the forest rides for some time, as Flamenca has become pretty heated up and tended to listen less and less to the sidepull. So we have started putting her in a double-broken eggbutt snaffle with a noseband, to stop her from putting her tongue over the bit. She was very upset about the bit in the beginning, but is getting used to it and gradually accepts it. Di is giving me some lessons in the arena to set up the dressage basics and get her solid in responding to them. Flamenca is pretty willing and cooperative, after the usual little excited start. Soon she can do nice stop-walk-stop transitions, turns in and out of a 16 m circle, figure eights, slaloms. I have also taught her to shift her weight back before walking off (got this idea from Lisel), which she does very well. Backing on a soft feel is very nice, too. Still and again, I have to be extremely light with my cues, and it took her quite some time to accept light leg aids. Nearly from the very beginning, she is coming to the bit and stepping under. Di makes delighted comments on how beautiful my girl is looking now!

Sunday 11 March to Friday 23 March 2001

Flamenca has learned how to toot a bike horn. Took her 3 sessions to understand that she has to squeeze it quite a bit to get a good, strong sound out of it - and she does make sure it happens! I have bought her a toy keyboard, with big buttons to push and get various percussion noises. She loves that one, too. We are making nice progress with the ridden work in the arena. I am trying a bit of sidepassing from time to time, and gradually my cues have come down to an almost "thinking". She really seems to enjoy this and sometimes anticipates it. She isn't worried about riding over the cones anymore now and does it calmly and elegantly. Then walks straight over to a pole, puts herself into position (note: without me being passive!), turns her head towards me like to ask permission to step sideways over it. You bet that she got a big jackpot for this one!!! :-)

Thursday 5 April 2001

I have neglected her ground manners for a while now, as there was always something else that seemed more important somehow. But she is gradually getting on my nerves with her constant chewing the rope, grabbing at my hands and clothes (especially when she gets tense, due to a difficult task). So we are doing a special lesson just to remedy to this, according to Alex Kurland's recommendations. I have put Flamenca in the stable and closed the door with a lead rope. Then ask for a simple task, like targeting (she is looking at me to make sure I haven't gone nuts to ask for something sooo simple!), and, as she is getting pushy, of course, I am going through the time out stuff. Takes 4 repeats for her to figure out that she will only get the treat, once she steps back a step and turns her head politely to the side and waits for the treat to be presented to her lips. In the same session, we do this without the rope, all over the stall and then arena, and she has learned her lesson so well that I only have to close my hand as a signal for her to turn her head to the side and wait. Phew, that does make things easier! ;-)

Thursday 26 April to Friday 11 May 2001

Flamenca is developing some tenseness for mounting again *sigh*. In the beginning, I can overcome it by using Neil Davies' method of poking her in the ribs with my thumb until she stands still and turns her head towards me, but things are getting worse, so Di and I decide to go back to square One. I am happy to have her to help me, as she always stays calm and relaxed and firm. We are doing lots of standing still with head low, and gradually I can get back on, without her throwing her head up and moving all over the place. We have decided to take her out to the forest from time to time to give her a break from all the arena work. She is doing very well, responding to the bit and seat cues. I am gradually introducing some longer pacapacas, like 50 meters or so. She often starts very softly but tends to tense up after a while, so I then take her back to a walk. She is very good at relaxing immediately and dropping her head at the walk.

Friday 18 May 2001

Went for an hour of arena work with Harry in the Hazelmere indoor arena. There was an enourmous water puddle at the entrance of the long, dark corridor, leading to the arena, and I was quite worried about it, as there was no way to avoid it, but Flamenca followed Harry straight through without even moving an ear! She will always surprise me! I decided to try the Torsion, Yana's treeless saddle, on her again, with a thick western pad underneath. She seems quite happy with it. To the usual basic work, I have added a few pacapacs on the long sides of the arena, some of them were really nice.

Sunday 20 May 2001

More work to teach Flamenca to stand quietly near a mounting block and taking the bit. This has become a bit of an issue recently as well, as she firmly held her teeth together and didn't want to let me put the bit in her mouth. She was also very nervous about letting it out again and violently threw her head in the air which knocked the bit against her teeth, of course. We are patiently working through this, and some success is showing now. BTW, one thing I am extremely pleased with is the way she floats. All I have to do is allow her to walk close to the ramp, and she will calmly walk into the float all by herself. She is very relaxed about this, stands in there as long as we want her to. So, no problem at all to close the tail gate, open it, undo the backward chain, ask her to step down, or whatever. It is such a pleasure to have a horse (or should I say two horses, as Harry is the same) which is so easy to transport. Absolutely delightful!

Sunday 3 June to Thursday 28 June 2001

Flamenca got kicked at the hock by an unknown evil paddock mate. Vet has ordered 4 weeks' rest, as fortunately, there is no broken bone, but "only" a torn ligament. Good opportunity to work on her newly acquired fear of being mounted and bridled. Within a few sessions, she has learned to lign herself up to the mounting block, as soon as I step on it. She is getting so good that I can easily correct a slightly out-of-line position by putting a finger tip to her ribs or hip or shoulder, to make her move over. Next step is leaning over her, while she is staying relaxed, with her head down. We also work on self-bridling and letting the bit out with her head held low. After a few repetitions, she is getting pretty good with it.

Friday 29 June 2001

Vet has done a flexion test and given us green light to start light riding again. First "riding" is putting saddle and sidepull on her, then I am stepping on the mounting block and ask her to line up what she does perfectly. After a few times leaning over the saddle, I can mount her without problem. We practise standing quietly close to the block, then move off at a slow walk. I dismount and start all over again. After a few repetitions, I take her out of the paddock and want to mount from the ground, but she gets wiggly and anxious again, so back to the mounting block for a few more repetitions. After this, the problem has faded away. :-)

Sunday 1st July 2001

Beautiful sunshine again, and, oh wonder, Yana agrees to come with me for a ride in the forest! Bridling and saddling go as smoothly as the mounting from the mounting block, and off we are. Flamenca is a little bit wound-up after more than one month without being ridden, but calms down pretty quickly. Yana is briefly tested out by Pebbles, but things go very well and the two get along perfectly. We have a nice, quiet ride, lots of walk (according to vet's prescription), and a few moderate trots/pasollanos in between. Looks like Flamenca has entered a new phase. When occasionally she falls into a trot, upon my friendly leg reminder, each time she puts in a well marked pigroot, then goes back to the gait. A real "Harriet". Ah well, I suppose that we just will have to work through it, after all, this just had happened to Di, and Harry grew out of it, too. I am very pleased with her pasollano, it is smooth with long strides, and very even and regular now. Most of the time, all I have to do, is lift my hands an inch and make a little kissing sound. She is a lot happier without me adding leg cues. Yana and Pebbles want to enjoy a nice trot and canter (which actually turn into a flying trot and gallop), so off they take, while Flamenca and I follow at a walk. Very nice ride, and the leg looks fine when we are back.

Tuesday 3 July 2001

Another ride in Kuitpo, with Di and Harry this time. Di has lunged Harry a bit before leaving. Flamenca is a bit intrigued by the unusual mounting block and doesn't line up perfectly, so that I am loosing balance a bit when getting aboard. No big deal. The two youngsters are fairly excited and unattentive, and Harry trips and nearly falls on his knees. Di manages to pick him up again, and is very grateful for her stock saddle which avoided a sommersault! Soon we allow them to take a nice trot/pasollano to get the wiggle out of them. Flamenca is delightful and moves out beautifully. Harry has to canter to catch up with her!! I ask her for a canter depart and she wants to take off, but a light half-halt brings her back to a nice, steady canter. Di is green with envy to see me just sit there so comfortably. :-D Well, that stirred my girl up a bit, and each time, I ask for the second gear, she wants to GOOOO. Takes a bit more rein that I like to put on her, but she comes back under control, even though staying a bit hot for the rest of the ride, offering to go faster from time to time. I am pretty sorry that we are only allowed to do a walk most of the time for another week or so, and so is Flamenca.... We put Harry on the float and I ask Flamenca to step on by herself, which she refuses to do, and doesn't want to follow me either. But after 2 minutes of this little testing game, she gives in and goes in as quietly as usual. Little brat! ;-)

Wednesday 11 July 2001

Had to interrupt, due to a lost shoe. Looks like Flamenca has now completely recovered from the effects of her big journey. She has put on quite some weight and has heaps of energy, so I decided it might be a good idead to cut back on her grain! Today she is full of spirit and walks off very briskly. Puts in a quite impressive kick when asked for the pasollano. A bit further she takes off at a canter, what makes Harry so excited that he puts in a giant pigroot at his turn which scares Di and shakes her newly-earned confidence in him. Despite the fact that we are walking quietly for the rest of the ride, he doesn't calm down, but stays very tense and naughty, giving Di a really uncomfortable ride. As we can't do any speed work, we stick to working on rating speed at the walk, collection etc. There are also a lot of big puddles on the trail, which is a great opportunity for Flamenca to learn how to handle this. She is a bit suspicious, but walks through them quietly, once she notices that Harry does it in front of her. I am surprised that, despite her eagerness to _go_ she listens to me very well and stays at the walk very obediently, even going up the dreaded steep hill. At the end of the ride, Di ties Harry to the float, while I am taking Flamenca for a pacapaca up and down the track. She tries to break into a trot, then a canter, but then settles down into a nice pasollano. On the way back, it's more like a very speedy sobreandando, but I sure won't complain about that! :-) Taking the bit and letting it go with head low isn't an issue anymore, nor is mounting most of the time. She can get a bit nervous about it at times, but usually calms down pretty quickly. I am now using a mounting block to get on at the beginning of the ride. This is a nice training for her to line up and stand still and makes her more comfortable with me getting on board. Floating is also back to normal.

Wednesday 18 July 2001

Di comes out with us on Pebbles, and we are practising quiet walking, as the Flame is too hot for doing pacapacas. She is putting in the usual two or three pigroots, but then calms down nicely.

Sunday 22 July 2001

Brigid, the Sidesaddle clinic teacher, is interested in seeing a gaited horse under saddle, so I am taking Flamenca to the clinic for the lunch break, to give a little demo. Di has taken Pebbles to ride her sidesaddle in the afternoon session, but it turns out that her legs are giving her too much trouble to do it, even though Pebbles was very quiet and patient for the saddle fitting and the warming up. Flamenca is pretty wiggly in the new environment, with all that flapping just outside the arena, the big warmbloods passing by and the come-and-try sidesaddle going on at the same time at the other end of the arena. But she does settle down after a while, and we can show off with some really nice pacapacas. Then Di hops on board at her turn, and Brigid is quite impressed with this "unusual" gait.

Wednesday 25 July 2001

We are taking Flamenca to Hazelmere, for the first time completely on her own. She floats nicely and is very patient for the saddling part, but gets rather wound up in anticipation, as soon as I want to mount, especially as there is a very noisy ride-on mower just the other side of the wall! I walk her around for a few rounds, then ask her to stand quietly and click her for it. After a little while, she is quiet enought to let me get on board without moving. Big CT, of course. Di suggests to ride her around at a quiet walk on a very loose rein. We are doing circles, then change rein, and I gradually pick up the reins and start putting on a bit of leg. She is bending nicely on the circle line and listens well to my cues. We decide to only do walking work this time, to prove her that being ridden doesn't automatically mean that she has to become all wound-up. ;-) Flamenca stays straight on the long middle line and on the diagonals, gives me some very nice leg yields (shoulder in). Stretching forward-downward "on the buckle" also works well. Things are becoming a lot softer and more relaxed now, and I am very pleased.

Thursday 9 August 2001

Flamenca has her first dressage lesson with Tamsin at Hazelmere. I briefly explained to her what PPs are and what that gait is all about, then talked about your recommendations what to do and what not (of course, I forgot to bring all the posts I printed out for her). Then I let Flamenca gait for a little while to settle her a bit. All this was so new for my baby, but she coped pretty well. She settled down after a few minutes and we could start working on some basic tasks at the walk, like correct bend on the circle line, listening to the leg, not anticipating everything, but waiting for the cue to do as asked. My little girl was very willing and trying really hard. My focus wasn't too good at times, and I, too, had some difficulties to execute Tamsyns "orders", as I was occasionally rushing into the halt, making the opening rein too strong when going around a corner, putting too much inside leg on etc. It was particularly interesting to work on correct walk-halt transitions, as in the past, we did it this way: I gave a seat cue, then a very light closing of my fingers around the reins and - bang - she stood like planted! And now she has to learn to keep walking, while the leg is giving some contact in preparation (and I am slowing down in my mind), and only then smoothly come to a stop when the rein actually lightly asks for it after all the preparation. Will take a bit more time, for both of us.... :-/ The llano was a bit tense and rushed, garnished with a few occasional pigroots, but she offered some nice relaxed parts, especially when I remembered Lee's hint about the soft elbows-wrists-fingers! Then Tamsin hopped on and had her very first ride on a gaited horse. I think she really enjoyed it. So nice to meet a dressage instructor with an open mind and ready to try out something unknown! She confirmed that Flamenca is really sensitive, and - as sure as 2+2 make 4 - got a canterdepart when she put her legs on to ask for the llano... ;-) But she got it very quickly and rode some nice, relaxed llanos in correct position.

Thursday 16 August 2001 and Thursday 23 August 2001

More practise riding correctly into a square stop. We also worked a lot on walking around in a square (about 20 m), i.e. moving her front end around the hind quarters, do a half-halt on outside rein to prepare her, then put on the leg and guide her gently around with inside rein, supporting slightly with outside rein. I got this wrong first and asked with the inside leg, which confused poor Flamenca. After Tamsin's explanations (guide her around with outside leg at girth, only keeping inside leg on in a close-to-passive holding position, to make sure he doesn't fall in with the inside shoulder), things worked a lot better. Then tried walking on a correct circle line, in the corners bending her around the inside legs instead. Got some really nice ones, but lost my focus from time to time. This is pretty hard for me, especially keeping the leg on softly all the time, and staying light enough with my hands. When Flamenca starts rushing, I have a hard time not to make the cues stronger... *sigh* The llano is still pretty rushed and nervous, and Tamsin is trying to figure out how to get her to relax. Definitely not an easy thing! We are now trying to ask for just a few steps of llano, then go back to a walk, same again, and then gradually increase the number of steps of llano. Flamenca has now stopped the kicking out, but has introduced a beginning of rearing instead! So, Tamsin's intention to work on hindquarter yields couldn't be carried out, but instead she had to work on standing quietly when asked for (going through a number of one rein stops upon each attempt to rear). Flamenca gave in after a while and responded nicely. When Tamsin tried some pacapacs, Flamenca offered one or two, then switched to all imaginable things, like trot, a very pacey sobreandando and even a foxtrot! Tamsin always rides her for the last 10 or 15 minutes, so Flamenca has somebody really knowledgeable and well coordinated on her back, after her sometimes confused owner....

Thursday 13 September 2001 to Thursday 11 October 2001

We are through quite some progress, even though it can be a bit difficult for either of us from time to time, for example when The Flame is in a mood or I loose my focus or get tangled up with the coordination of leg and rein cues.... The Flame was quite hot and unwillig, and it took ages to get her to listen and calm down, but she did it in the end. Tamsin was quite eager to hop on after half an hour, but my pocket rocket (my friend Di came up with this term, and I just love it) was as naughty for her in the beginning. After about 15 minutes, she finally was looking for contact, stepped under and wrapped around the leg, and even consented to do some pacapacas without going berserk.... ;-) I am very pleased that Tamsin visibly likes riding my girl and does it regularly at the end of each lesson. Di told me that usually she doesn't like riding her students' horses! We might end up making an addict of gaited horses of her! We were out to the forest again, and it was there that I noticed the big change. Flamenca is very responsive to rein and leg now and tends to get inquisitve when I take my (very soft) supportive leg away for a moment! We are incorporating our little beginner dressage stuff in the rides, like leg yielding, sidepassing etc., and it's such a pleasure to see her cooperate so willingly. Yesterday I went out with Claudia Meyer, who visited from Switzerland. Claudia (a very good rider) took Di's Harry (and loved him, as he can be a very educated horse *g*). Despite he hadn't been ridden for 2 months, he behaved perfectly and really loved our long trots and canters. Flamenca was a bit confused and antsy when I asked for the llano first, and went through some quite interesting "gaits", hehehe, but then she had found her rhythm and stretched out into the most spectacular running walk (according to your description, Lee, I think that was what it was). Boy, was she fast - she just left cantering Harry far behind in the dust! We did that several times on fairly long distances, and she offered it each time :-) And the most thrilling thing: I could go to very loose contact, and she just carried on and on effortlessly at that high speed. What puzzled me was that she lowered her head and rounded up her back, and that didn't interfere the least with the RW. What do you think, Lee, is that typical/acceptable/recommendable for her to do? Claudia, who has ridden quite some Icelandics, was VERY impressed and said: "wow, you have got a natural gaiting machine there!" I let her try Flamenca out herself, and she was just delighted.... and very positively impressed how much better a PP felt than an Icey! Sorry, Icey owners, no offence intended! She just found this high action in front, the longer steps and the strong engagement of the hindquarters very comfy and thrilling.

Thursday 25 October 2001 to Thursday 1 November 2001

The Flame and I are going through some puzzling stages again in our training. She had been so brilliant recently, becoming really soft and even during our dressage lessons. So I took her out to the trails several times, and it was a bloody mess, as we Aussies say! All she wanted was run-run-run! :-( Canter was OK, even though fast to start with, but she didn't try to run away with me and was able to kinda collect herself after a little go. We started a bit on canter work now, as she seemed quite comfy and regular with it outside. She goes to it willingly from a walk (picks up the correct lead, no crossfiring or anything), but needs constant reminders from the inside leg to be able to keep in in the arena. Well, normal enough for a youngster, I suppose. The llano (on the trails) was another story. She just flat refused to do it - went through 6 different "gaits", jammed herself on the bit and took off like the pocket rocket she is. And not only once. I had to become pretty hard and even had to do some one rein stops to get her into control. Each time I asked for the llano, she started that crazy, excited "finofino" and then pushed madly forward into a thing which I have difficulty to recognise, which could be a running walk. It is a four-beat, but not as comfy and regular as the slower llano (at the times she manages to do it in a relaxed way), and when in it, she becomes sort of flat, gliding along like very close to the ground, in an incredible speed, head forward-downward and sometimes even tucks her nose to her chest. She can hold this without any rein contact, but it feels like a runaway most of the time. Lots of practise to come... *sigh*

Tuesday 6 November to Thursday 8 November 2001

Decided to go out to the forest with Di and Harry. He started up quite tense, but calmed down eventually. Flamenca was a super-brat, leaning on the bit with 20 kg on each side, trying to run away with me. I had to become fairly hard, as Tamsin had warned me not to let her get away with that kind of behaviour. Ah well, we practised stopping from fast gaits! She became a bit softer towards the end, but the llano was still as good as inexistent! At the end of the ride, I took her up and down the track several times, asking for the llano. She started with being very upset, reacting to each leg request with a kick out, but calmed down at last and did two or three nice ones. Got a CT and we called it a day. Next day, out in Kuitpo again. Di was a bit apprehensive that Harry might be like yesterday, but he was so good from the beginning that she put him into a canter at the first hill, i.e. after about 3 minutes of riding. He popped into it with the greatest nonchalance (only one pigroot at the beginning), and stayed nice and relaxed all the time. Flamenca was pretty responsive, too. She did some nice, fast sobreandandos, keeping willing contact with my hand, listened to the half-halts, stopped willingly, cantered without pulling, staying behind Harry as requested. Towards the end, got several relaxed llanos which I CT'd. Big grin of delight on the riders' faces! Flamenca is very good now, responding to a loose rein. She stretches out willingly, stays in a steady walk without any contact. Water isn't an issue anymore. We crossed several big puddles, no hesitation, even in front. Floating on her own is getting better, since I started using the hand target to make her go on. Thursday's lesson: while waiting for the precedent rider to finish, I took Flamenca "out" on her own for the first time. We walked along the dirt road, leading to Woodlands. She hesitated a bit at the two doggies, tied at the front gate, then at the swinging sign of Belmont Park and the big bulls in the front paddock, but responded to my leg cue and went forward after a few secs. At Alison's place, the rubbish bin was suspect, but this time she passed it after only a slight hesitation. I asked for some llanos, which she did in the most delightful, relaxed, smooth way. No pulling, no nervousness, just plodding along calmly at a gentle rhythm on a very light rein - almost no contact. For downward transition to the walk, a leg cue was enough. Absolutely delightful! :-)) Di took the first part of the lesson, as I suggested that it might be good for her to get some practise, for the time she will have to train Melado. After a slightly worried start, she did very well, found a nice rhythym on a loose rein, good body position, in harmony with the horse. I did the last bit, and we worked, among other stuff, like leg yielding on the circle etc., on more soft llanos. Worked very well this time, really smooth and cooperative. I love that horsie!!

Friday 9 November 2001

Despite Di is pretty tired, we are floating to Kuitpo Hut. Harry is getting very tense, with a huge "Saddlebred attitude" when he sees a dozen little tractors, pushing around bright blue silage bales in the neighbouring paddock! His focus is completely away from us, and he nearly runs us over when we want to saddle him! Very unusual for him, as normally he is pretty laid-back about everything around. We tie him to the off-side of the float where he calms down. Flamenca couldn't care less, she just throws one indiffernt look at the blue monsters, and carries on with her nap. As Harry is pretty bouncy, with always one worried eye on the blue things and a tower-high head carriage, Di decides not to go over the cavaletti, so we take the road uphill instead. He calms downs after a minute or two (Flamenca has been perfectly quiet all the time!), so Di puts him into a trot, then a canter. Flamenca follows, staying willingly behind him. I feel that she is rather tired from all the riding over the last few days, so let her decide when to slow down to the walk, while Harry is still cantering in front. We meet Penny Habermehl, who just won the endurance championship on her Arab gelding. She admires Harry a lot, then throws a short look at Flamenca and wants to know about the breed. We give her a little pacapaca demo which she is very interested in. On the way back, we swap horses. Boy, is Harry tall, and the stock saddle pokes into all parts of my lower anatomy, and thus makes trotting a real pain. So we stick to walking, I do a little bit of sit-trot and one little canter uphill. His canter is really comfy! :-)

Sunday 11 November 2001

For the first time, I am taking Flamenca out to the forest on her own. I have put her into the sidepull (first time in months). She walks off pretty briskly through the now very high grass of the hay paddock, but calms down as soon as we have crossed the gate. She is very soft and responsive, and her llanos as wonderful and relaxed. No trouble at all during the whole ride. She stays at the speed I want her to, changes gear willingly, is ultra-soft in the transitions, and very enthusiastic to carry out whatever I ask from her. Back home in the hay paddoc, I try to open and shut the gate from her back. She is a bit confused at first, but quickly understands my goal and even cooperates by turning her body into position.

Monday 12 November 2001

We have planned a beach ride at Goolwa, but the weather is so nasty that Di with Harry and Sue with Shalima decide to back out. Di suggests that I take Flamenca there on my own and she and Sue would accompany me, walking the dog in the meantime. Decided to do it and took The Flame to the big parking area at Goolwa Beach. She is as quiet as can be when Di and Sue lead her around to have a first look at the sea while I am getting rid of all the tea I had for breakfast ;-). Saddling and mounting no problem at all, and Flamenca walks off obediently toward the shore, not troubled the least by the wind, the occasional showers and the waves, splashing at the shore. She even wants to explore them and has a good sniff and wants to taste the foam. She walks nice and relaxed, head low, each time I give her the reins, but is as willing to go into a pacapaca and a canter. I am truly amazed by her attitude!

Thursday 15 November 2001

Lesson with Tamsin goes well, but Flamenca seems a bit stiff on the right hand, so I decide to get the vet/chiro have a look at her. Greg Rodda confirms that she has a sore spot in her back, does a bit of chiro work on her and recommends that I do the belly lift every day. She gets 10 days off work.

Saturday 24 November to Sunday 25 November 2001

Back from Equitana, I am taking Flamenca into our small "arena" for a short ride. She starts off a bit firy when seeing the newly pressed round bales in the neighbouring paddock, but comes down almost immediately and is nice and soft on the cues. I can feel all the progress she has made. Sunday we are in Hazelmere indoor arena. She has big problems with the llano, as there is a new layer of very deep sand. So I decide to mainly do exercises at the walk.

Thursday 8 December 2001

During our lesson, we have to work Flamenca at the trot again, due to the deep sand. We took the opportunity to work towards collection. She isn't very amused in the beginning, her ears are in all directions and she is fiddling on the bit, but shows some nice beginnings of feel on the reins, offering to drop her head into position, and stepping under. But it is quite hard work, as (typical reaction) she has now gone to the other extreme and asks for lots of leg and being pretty heavy on the hand to start with. My legs are so tired that I am happy when Tamsin takes over.

Monday 10 and Wednesday 12 December 2001

Di has brought Harry and Melado over for a holiday in one of our paddocks to help eat down the surplus grass. So we are going out "by foot" from our property, through the little gait at the end of the hay paddock and along Duffield Road into the Forest. Flamenca and Harry are very quiet, plodding along happily. After a few llanos, I mainly ask Flamenca to trot alongside Harry. She is nice and disciplined and stays at the asked speed, even when Di puts him into a canter. Next day, we are putting Flamenca into the float, too, when Di takes Harry to a lesson at Woodlands (with Jenny and Gabriella). We are leaving on our own from there. Flamenca is a bit sticky in the beginning, especially as Harry sends a big protesting whinny after us, but then moves on obediently. Lots of beautiful, relaxed llanos, some collected work at the walk, and nice, prompt canter departs on mere shifting back my outside leg. We are going through an area where lots of tree felling has been done and which is quite messy as a result, but Flamenca only hesistes a bit and then walks everywhere I ask her.

Thursday 13 December 2001

It's getting pretty warm for our weekly lessons at 11 a.m., so I asked Tamsin to change them over to 8:30 in the morning. Flamenca is quiet right from the start, in fact I have to do a lot of work with my legs and am pretty worn out as a result after 20 minutes! I am joking that I will need a more firy horse soon! As Tamsin says: once they get more educated, they require a lot more input from the rider. How true!! Flamenca is listening very well to me now - a complete change to the over-excicted, always anticipating filly she was 6 months ago. Tamsin is quite happy with both our progress and notes that I have a quite good feel for the coordination of the cues, which makes me very happy, of course. For the first time I am getting today a very quiet, consistent llano over more than a complete round of arena in a row. Works like a charm, with hardly any little "quirks" in between which can be corrected immediately, and back she is into that gliding gait, working very well through her hind legs. I suggest that Tamsin tries it, as she had never experienced that stage of smoothness before, but this turns out as a complete failure, as she can't get Flamenca into the gait at all! When I try again, I get it right away. Tamsin thinks that my girl is just so tuned into me and confident with "her mum" that she doesn't accept different cues from somebody else now! We are doing some work at the trot now to build up the muscles. Flamenca is still struggling with this, but is getting a lot more even and consistent towards the end of Tamsin riding her. They are also having a few canters, which are still pretty rushed at this stage and in between mixed up with some very weird stuff Flamencs is doing with her hind legs. Di and I nearly fall over laughing while watching them. Tamsin also has a big grin and says that the poor girl has so many gaits to deal with that it's not too surprising she gets them mixed up from time to time.... Di has come up with a brilliant idea about getting eager floaters! She has tested it out with Melado whom she is now training to go on and off the float in various situations. She also broght him and Harry along during Flamenca's lesson, so the little one can get used to seeing new things. Anyway: the secret is to put a flake of lucern hay into a hay net and hang it in the front of the float. Flamenca found out about this yesterday and today, she walked straight into it, even with no other horse in there and stood there quietly. And she didn't want to come out again, as there was some lucern left!! ;-)

Sunday 16 December 2001

Out with Greg and Darah to the Forest. Flamenca starts off a bit wiggly and struggling, but a few half-halts bring her back to reason. A bit to Greg's surprise I ask her to trot instead of gaiting, which she visibly has problems that day. She follows Darah nicely, and the trot is becoming pretty regular.

Thursday 20 to Tuesday 25 December 2001

I am taking Flamenca out to the Forest on her own almost every day now. We are practising a lot to do relaxed llanos, correct canter departs, walking on very long reins with head low. I am very pleased with the results, especially the llanos are becoming very consistent, quiet and relaxed now. Sometimes it's almost a gateado! Upon a gentle cue, Flamenca pops into a canter from the walk without effort. She is so relaxed now, especially at the walk, that I would like to see her a bit more lively at times! ;-) We are also practising to open and close the little gate at the end of our property from the saddle. Takes Flamenca one slightly confused try (I am afraid that my cues were far from perfect *sigh*), but the next time, she is focusing at that gate and really cooperating to move around it. From then on, I can get her into position with a bit of leg, and she stands there, helping me to keep the gate in place while I am fixing the latch. Ah well, after all she is a gated horse, hehehe.... Di and Harry are coming along the last day, and for the first time, Flamenca stays in the gait for longer periods in company of another horse. I can feel her becoming a bit irregular from time to time, but she is very willing to go back to a nice four-beat llano as soon as I ask for it. Amazing how I can ride her in very light contact now and how she picks up very gentle cues. Biiiig difference to her behaviour only a few months ago! Di is trying her out on the forest trails and is just delighted of her beautiful pacapaca and her lightness, balance and responsiveness. Harry is putting in a little "Dirty Harry Demo" at our first canter depart. As soon as I hear Di protest behind me, I ask for a stop, and Flamenca responds immediately. What a sweet girl! She and Harry are exchanging some little kisses during the ride. They are really good friends, enjyoing to walk closely side by side.

Sunday 30 December 2001

Flamenca has developped some windgalls at the front fetlocks, so, after consultation with Daniel from CH, I decide to give her a year off, to allow her to fully mature. Tomorrow, I will float her over to Christiane's place at Olivaylle and have her bred to Domingo, Christiane's young black PP stallion. The foal will be for Chris, as I promised her one. So today, I have my last short ride on Flamenca for a long time *sigh*. Daniel is taking us on video. Flamenca is a bit worried by all the pushbikes and people walking their dogs, so her gait isn't as good as it can be, but still a real pleasure. Daniel has a little hop-on and his first try on a PP. He likes it!!! After 10 minutes, we stop and take her back home. Let's hope that she will have a beautiful foal next year, and that I then will be back in the saddle, enjoying my beautiful mare...