Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cowboy and Nina Day

I was determined to spend time with Cowboy and Nina today. I have some work to catch up on and with daylight savings kicking in, feels like the day was getting away from me. However, I got out there, did my horsey chorse and got to work with Nina first.

I touched up her hooves, trying to keep her from flaring. Her hooves are very wide and short by nature, so I try to stay ahead of the wall that grows in the quarters and shape the toe to help the toe grow out nicely. She actually has pretty nice feet. She was so calm today and when I went to get her, she was laying down sleeping along with Gemini, Cowboy and Rain. I sat down next to her and just scratched her all over. She was loving it and rested her head on me. We sat there for a solid 5 mins. She can be such a sweet horse.

Once I had her hooves trimmed, i went ahead and tacked her up. Getting the saddle on her has become a non-issue, which is fantastic. She accepts it willingly and doesn't move her feet. Then, I checked on our friendly game, asked her to cross some obstacles, and just generally tried to see where her head was. Again, she was calm and easy - even the wind was ridiculous today. I played with her and the tarp for the first time and she was non-plussed. Part of that is her personality, part of it is that she trusts me and she's confident with me. I took her into the round pen for some squeezing over barrels. She is not confident about going over things. My guess is she feels clumsy (she certainly looks pretty dang clumsy!). She got a little emotional about it, so I spread them apart and just asked her to squeeze through the opening. That was much easier and we moved on. We played with the circle game at different gates, with her following my body. When I trotted, I asked her to trot (like a jog in place), when I canter, she should, too (kind of like a skip). She's really great at that and we started to transition back down and up together. She gets that game! After a time, it felt like a good time to climb on. I asked Steve to hold her while I mounted from both sides repeatedly. Then, he led her around while I bellied her. I would have liked to swing a let over, but it seemed to risky with Steve as my ground person. He's doing everything I ask beautifully, but he's not a "horse person" and it would take a split second for Nina to act out and catch Steve off guard. Both of us could end up hurt in a hurry.

She was very calm and I'm proud of the good start she's getting. A few more weeks and I should be riding her around with ease. I tied her to the hitching rail and asked her to stand there for a while. She's calm about being tied and she cocked a leg and took a nap. She stood tied about an hour. She's a good girl.

Then, I got Cowboy out and tacked him up. I'm watching him very closely to see when he's shows stress so I can address it. I'd like to understand him better since he'll be my next L3 partner, most likely. I brushed him, messed with him, checked him over (he's got lots of bite marks from Gem). Then, I tacked him up and watched to see where he showed displacement behavior. He was ok with the pad, ok with the saddle, but when I started to cinch, he got stressed. Next time, I'll have a treat. He's very LBI and highly motivated by food. I tried to go very slowly and minimize the stress. He seemed to be settling when I took my time and then I mounted up out near the play area. I was completely comfortable hopping on and really felt trusting of him. The more I know him, the more I trust him.

We started out in the arena and I was planning to do a passenger lesson. He kept dropping his head because he was stressed and fiddling with his mouth. I didn't want to stop him, but he wanted to slow down when I allowed it. Hmmm... a dilemma. I wasn't sure where to go with it, so I tried to ask for more action. We cantered around and he seemed fine and confident - more than he was at the trot. Then we'd go back to a trot and he'd go back to displacement behavior. After about 10 mins, I decided to try the front pasture instead. Maybe he's been pushed too hard in arenas?

He did seem better and the displacement behavior stopped, but he was very inclined to be with the herd. So I walked him away and trotted/cantered him back. We did that a few times before I got interrupted by a visitor. Darn it! Once I got back on to get started again, I tried to simply walk him around the property. He was going along ok and trotted without being asked at one point. I realize he will NOT do that in an arena. He seems to go lights out in an arena in no time flat. He is much more interested and alert outside of the arena, in the open.

We trotted and cantered some around the property and found ourselves back at the barn pretty quickly. How interesting! I've always thought of him as the horse that doesn't need the herd. The horse that will willingly leave the herd for a trail ride. Not so at this point. We'll have to build back up to it. That's ok. Typical stuff.

At one point, he stopped and so did I. We just stood there together for probably 5 minutes. We were next to a pine tree and he just relaxed. I'd like to think he was waiting to see what I wanted. I'd also like to think it was relaxing to carry a rider who was happy to do nothing.

I'll keep getting inside his head. I have lots of tricks and tools in mind and I'll try them all until I figure out which one intrigues him. I do know that I've got to start incorporating treats into our sessions. He needs a reason to feel motivated. He's an unmotivated horse and I need him to show some life. Right now, I think he'll be tough with some of the L3 stuff because of his introverted nature and lack of desire to move fast. I'll be learning how to build that with creative play - a good challenge for me.

He's such a great-looking horse and I'm completely interested in developing him. What of Gemini? He'll be with Krissy for a while starting soon and I will watch from afar how he's doing. He could/should be #3 for my levels horses. That's where my head is now, at least.

Side note: Z and I are doing much better. She came up to me multiple times today while I had a lead in my hand. I'd like to think I'm more interesting to her lately and maybe taking different horses out of the pasture for play time makes her feel less like fleeing when I show up with a lead rope. It's good, I'm watching and learning - she's teaching me tons.

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