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Tess Harms Williams

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TA Horsemanship I Journal
This class period we started by watching a video about Mongolia and how their culture
and interaction with horses is so immersed and how crucial and fundamental the horse
is to their culture. We then did introductions and talked about everyone’s horse
experience. It sounds like everyone has at least some experience with horses and we
have a couple of people that have a lot of experience so it will be interesting to see the
differences in this class compared to the class I was a TA for last spring.

This class period we went over how to groom and saddle a horse properly. We were in
the classroom today but next week we are going to go out and the students are going to
watch Con groom and saddle a horse properly and then they will catch and groom their
own horses.

Today was all about catching, grooming and saddling. We started in the arena with Con
doing a demo on how to catch a horse, groom, and saddle it. He then briefly talked
about mounting and riding, but we will get into that more next week. After the demo, the
students went out and caught their own horses. Most of the students in the class have
riding experience and were able to catch their horses really easily. Some of them did
struggle with putting the halter on. After that they took their horse out of the corral and
worked on grooming and saddling. There were a few students that needed help with the
quick release knot and with picking up their horses’ feet but for the most part grooming
went very smoothly. The students that had not tacked up a horse before did struggle a
little bit more when it came to saddling because there are so many different things that
you have to remember to do. However, compared to the class I TAed last semester this
class session went a lot more smoothly and we even ended early. Next week will really
tell how the class is going to go because next week is the first time that we will be riding.

Today was the first time we rode in the class. We started by catching, grooming and
saddling. Most everyone did pretty good by themselves. There were a couple of people
that struggled in picking up feet and bridling but for the most part it went really smoothly.
When we got into the arena and got onto our horses that was a little bit of a different
story. Brett, McKade, and Dalace have ridden before and it’s clear that they have the
highest skill level out of the group. The biggest struggle of the day was direction,
stopping, and getting horses to walk. We didn’t do anything but walk today, which I think
is good since the directional skills were a big challenge for a lot of people. There was a
lot of chaos at the beginning with people walking through the middle of the arena, not
getting their horses to turn, etc. By the end of the class, however, everyone was spread
out on the rail and walking their horses so that was good. I think that a lot of people
have potential in this class and that it can be really good. The nice thing is that everyone
seems to want to learn so far so that’s good.

There is such a stark difference between the class I am TAing this semester and the
class I was a TA for last semester. This class right now is so willing to learn and willing
to listen that it makes the class go a lot smoother, even if everyone isn’t perfect. Today
we introduced the trot. Everyone was doing pretty good with walking and turning so Con
thought it would be a good day to introduce the trot and talk about posting. Some
people really struggled with the post, like Shelley. Part of that was that her stirrups were
a little long. I think that next week if she shortens then one hole or two that it’ll be a lot
better for her. I think the hardest part for students was keeping control of direction and
trotting. Sidney had a really hard time controlling the direction of the little gray mare she
was riding. They struggled for most of the class. Natasha also struggled a lot with
controlling the direction of her horse, Buster. He wanted to come in the middle and be
with the horses standing in the middle so I rode alongside Natasha and him for a while
to get him used to the railing and then I let them go. I think that if we can get really solid
in our directional skills and applying pressure and release that everyone will improve a
lot in the class. It’s really nice though because no one in this class argues or just does
what they want; they all listen to Con and take his advice and tips, which I think not only
helps them to improve but it also helps the class to run smoother. I’m interested to see
how far this class can go and how much we can learn throughout this semester.

Today was a really good day for everyone in the class. We went over direction by
having everyone weave through cones and then we worked on trotting with the post and
sitting the trot. Everyone was doing really good with posting. Some people were
struggling to get into the rhythm of sitting the trot but by the end of the class most
everyone was doing really good with it. I think that the class is really progressing a lot
and that the students are learning a lot. I think that this class is so different from the
class I was a TA for last semester that it’s really teaching me a lot. I’ve been able to see
that it really depends on the willingness to learn that influences how quickly a rider can
progress through the class.

Today we went on a trail ride, which was kind of perfect. Everyone did really good on
the trail ride and didn’t have any issues directed their horses. H had a little bit of a
struggle getting Hi-Chew to stay at the same pace as everyone else so we had a pretty
big gap between the front ¾ of the group and last ¼. I think part of that though is that
she isn’t as comfortable with riding as some of the others in the class and I think she’s
afraid she’s going to hurt Hi-Chew. That is one thing I really noticed this week. A few of
the kids in this class that aren’t familiar with horses think that they are going to hurt their
horse by putting a little bit of pressure on them. For example, Shelly is afraid that her
saddle is going to hurt Misty and that not letting go of Misty’s hoof when she’s cleaning
it and Misty wants to take it away is going to hurt Misty. It’s very interesting because I’ve
never been around someone who is so scared to hurt a 1000-pound animal. It made me
realize the other day that people that aren’t familiar with horses don’t realize how horses
interact with each other in their own habitat and that might be why people have such
issues with training and such. If a horse nips at a person and that person bops the
horse on the nose to teach it not to bite, some people freak out over that. But out in the
wild, horses bite and kick each other and draw blood, contusions, etc. A little bop to
teach a horse not to bite is so much less than that horse would get from another horse.
But to people that aren’t familiar with horse behavior and psychology it’s mean.
Hopefully by the end of the class they aren’t as afraid of their horses and understand
that they aren’t going to hurt them when they ask them to pick up their feet to clean it.
Today was really good for me too. In my advanced horsemanship class, I was getting
really down on myself because I have been struggling with Nebo the last couple of
times with training him and working on disengaging and so forth. I was really down on
myself and lacking a lot of confidence in my ability to ride and work with horses. I think
that going into this ride I was going through the motions a lot more but then when I got
on Sissy and started joining up with her before we left to go on the ride I realized that it’s
not all my fault that Nebo is struggling. Sissy was so responsive to my cues on the trail
ride and she was so much better on our trail ride than the semester before; she wasn’t
antsy and fighting to go past other horses. She was listening to me and she was calm
and content. It was really good for me because it reminded me that while I may be
struggling with Nebo that part of it is that Nebo is struggling to learn and that he’s an
older horse and isn’t necessarily used to what we are doing in the class. He’s used to
the horsemanship classes where he just needs to ride in a circle and walk, trot, lope.
He’s not used to disengaging his hind, front, collected, and having to stand in one area
for a majority of the class time. I think I was putting all of Nebo’s struggling to learn on
myself and blaming myself for not being a good enough trainer and so forth but it’s not
all on me. I need to take Nebo where he is and even if his success isn’t as great as the
other horses in the class it’s great for him. Riding Sissy and seeing how responsive she
was and how well we worked together helped me to see that I know what I’m doing and
I know how to ride. I just need to take a breath and just relax when it comes to Nebo.

Today we worked on trotting and moving the horses around cones. I think that this is
such a good exercise for everyone to practice because it helps you to gain more of an
understanding of how to cue a horse for direction. I think that this class struggles the
most with direction and pressure. Shelly rode a Jafar today instead of Misty and she told
Con that she was afraid she was going to hurt him if she put pressure on him with her
legs to get him to increase his speed. I think that if most of the students can learn some
confidence and not be so afraid to increase pressure when it is needed that they could
improve even more. Overall we are doing really well as a class but there a just a few
hiccups and things that we need to work out and smooth through before the class gets
done. I think that some things are: keeping heels down, posting and sitting the trot,
direction, giving as little pressure as needed but as much is necessary. Once we get
that taken care of I think that everyone would be really good for a beginning horse class.

Today we went on a trail ride. It was a little rough because I was sick but the riders did
really well. We went on a more challenging ride than the first one we went on. There
were more hills and they were a little bit steeper. I think it was really good for everyone
because not only did we get to work on what they are learning in the arena, they got a
little bit of a break. I think that the trail rides are good because they let the students in
Horse 1 see what they are working towards and why we drill them so much on
technique. If you don’t have proper technique and are confident in your riding, you put
yourself and others at risk when you’re on a trail ride. I think that the trail ride is also
kind of a reward for them working hard on improving their skills and working to become
better riders. This class is so good and I think that everyone is improving so much and
continues to learn and improve every week.

Today we focused a lot on having control of speed and direction. In another horse 1
class on Tuesday a girl fell off her horse on a trail ride because her cinch was undone
and she didn’t have control of her speed and direction. Because of that Con wanted to
re-emphasize having control over speed and direction. We focused on that a lot, which I
think was really good. Some of the students like Natasha and Shelly really struggle with
it. I think they are afraid they are going to hurt their horses when they apply pressure so
it’s hard for them to get control of their horse. We worked a lot on going through cones,
trotting (posting and sitting) and maintaining direction. I think we made some progress
though. At the beginning of the class a lot of people were just letting their horses follow
the other horses and not listen to their own cues so most of the horses were cutting
corners and not staying out on the rail. By the end of the class though everyone was
keeping their horse out on the rail and the horses were all listening and paying attention.
I think we made a lot of pressure today.

Today we went on a trail ride. I think that it went really well. It’s clear to see who is
confident in their riding and who is still a little unsure of themselves. I think that the
people who are a little unsure try to stick to the front and stay by Con, but the people
that are more confident don’t mind being in the back. I definitely think, though, that
everyone has gained a lot of confidence since the beginning of the class to now; I think
that anyone who had no experience with horses is not feeling a lot better about riding
and is a lot more relaxed when going on trail rides. It’s crazy to think about how far
we’ve come since September and that there’s only a few more weeks to work on things
before the class comes to an end.

Today was a really good day to kind of judge where everyone is and how far they have
come in the class. We loped today for the first time in this class. It was easy to see who
was confident and ready and who still needs to gain some confidence before trying to
lope. I think that it also showed who needs to still work on certain riding aspects before
trying to lope.
Kirsten: Kirsten tried riding one of the new cremellos (Jack I think) today. It wasn’t the
best fit and I think it showed that she still has a long way to go. She really needs to learn
how to put pressure on a horse and build the pressure until she gets the desired result.
With the horse she was riding, she would ask him to do one thing and then give up if he
didn’t do it. She also let him be the boss of her.
Brett: Brett did really well. He was riding the new buckskin mare Frannie and at first she
had a little freak out but Brett did a really good job at getting her to stop and then
calming her down. He was then able to get her into a nice lope and it looked really
McKade: Absent
Dalace: Dalace rode the other cremello with the ugly head (Preacher?) and that went
really well. Dalace is really in control and it’s easy to see that she’s ridden before and is
comfortable loping.
Shelly: Shelly was really nervous about loping at first and didn’t want to ask Misty to do
it. I think that part of the reason it’s scary is because Shelly isn’t confident in her ability
and thinks that Misty is the boss. However, once she got into a lope she did okay with it
and was figuring out the rhythm of it.
Sydney: Sydney rode Hay Hay and the thing she struggled with the most was getting
Hay Hay into a lope and keeping her there. It is very clear that Hay Hay would rather
trot than anything else but Sydney did a good job of working with her and getting her
into the lope a couple of times.
Jessica or H: H had a really really hard time with the lope. I think she was really scared
to do it. I think she had Hi-Chew get into a lope once. I think that the thing that scares
her is that it feels a lot faster than a trot and I think that is what she is having trouble
with. However, from where she started I think that she has come a really long way and
I’m happy that she’s continuing to push herself and try to become better.
Natasha: Natasha really struggled with the lope. She was riding Jaycee and it seemed
to me that she didn’t want to lope. She did lope for a few minutes and then she stopped.
Her biggest issue was that whenever Jaycee would start to lope she would immediately
yank on the reins so Jaycee would slow down. I think that if she can build more
confidence and be more in control of the pressure she is using with the reins that she
will improve loping a lot.
Lauren: Lauren is difficult to judge. I think that she kind of has gotten a chip on her
shoulder because she’s taken horse 1 before; I think that she still has a lot to learn and
a lot that she can improve on. She was riding Jafaar, who is really hard to get into a
lope, but because she was wearing spurs to ride Jafaar she was able to put enough
pressure on him to get him into a lope. I think that in that aspect she has gotten better
and doesn’t give up on Jafaar anymore like she did in the beginning. However, at one
point I saw her pull very harshly on Jafaar with a rein to get him to turn and didn’t apply
any leg pressure. I don’t think that that is good horsemanship and I think that she really
needs to learn what type of pressure to use and that it doesn’t all have to be intense
pressure before she will really improve.
Amy: Amy had a hard time getting Nebo to lope and couldn’t keep the pressure up to
get him into a lope for longer than two strides. Next time she is going to try a different
Today showed me a lot of where everyone is at and how much they have improved but
how much they can still progress and improve. It also made me reflect on my own
horsemanship and see how far I’ve come with my own riding and how I probably used
to look like them when I was younger. I also thought a lot about Sissy today. Con asked
me to switch and let Kirsten ride Sissy the next time we have class. While I’m going to
let her, it kind of made me realize how much I have bonded with Sissy in the past year
from TAing with her and how far we’ve come together. I think that it’s interesting how we
bond with certain horses and not with others. I definitely have a stronger connection
with Sissy than I do with Nebo. One reason for that is I think that I get along better with
mares than with geldings. I always have when I think back on the horses I’ve rode
through the years. I also think that Sissy and I have very similar personalities: we both
have a sassy side and we are both very sensitive and can be reactive. I think that by
having those traits in common it has let us form a closer relationship than I have with
11/21/18 – No class – Thanksgiving Break

Today was our last day in the arena and we worked more on loping. It was interesting to
see how different people dealt with riding different horses. I rode Jezebel today instead
of Sissy so that Kirsten could ride her and hopefully lope. It was interesting to see how
we each dealt with riding a new horse and I think a lot of that comes from our different
levels of horsemanship. Going into it, Kirsten was a lot more anxious and almost afraid
of how Sissy was going to react over everything. And Sissy is very different from the
other horses that she has rode throughout the class; Sissy doesn’t need a lot of
pressure to do what you want, and she likes to go fast. I think that intimidated Kirsten a
lot. It was interesting to watch the other students as well. Amy rode Moonshine instead
of Nebo and she was very afraid of Moonshine because Moonshine has an attitude. I
think I found it interesting because I had never rode Jezebel before today and I just
went out and got her and treated her as if I had been working with her for the entire
semester. I think that helped to make both of us more comfortable and I think that she
respected me a little bit more. When I was riding her, I noticed that she would try and
test the boundaries or try to do what she wanted but I didn’t put up with it and she
recognized that. If there was one thing that I could teach this class before they all leave
for the semester it would be to not let the horse do whatever it wants while you’re riding.
I think that is the biggest struggle for most of the people in this class. For example,
when Amy was loping Moonshine there was a moment where she wasn’t directing
Moonshine or controlling what direction they were going and they both ended up loping
right towards me and Jezebel, forcing us to get out of the way. Being in charge and
having control over speed and direction is such an important thing and I think that while
some of the students have mastered it that a lot of the students in this class still need to
learn that concept. Overall, it was a good last day in the arena and next week should be
fun since we get to go on a trail ride.