Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Successful Night with Horses

Got a lot of things going tonight! It was a great night. I started off with Tina, teaching her to drive from zone 3. She's new to zone 3 work and she did quite well for her first time. She was over-reacting to me when I asked her to mind her shoulder and keep it out of my space, but she walked forward very well (of course) and touched her nose or hoof on everything I asked. The longer we played, the better she felt about the game. She was actually started to seek the object I was focusing on. Pretty cool.

A couple things worth noting: Tina doesn't like things touching her ears. We need to get beyond that. Also, she has such left-brained tendencies. When she's got even a little confidence, she investigates lots of things with her mouth. I'll keep watching and rewarding that sort of behavior. Bravery is her biggest hole.

Chrissy was driving her horse from zone 3 too, for the first time. She was a little soft at first, but she was quickly learning how to get effective with phase 4. After a short time, she was getting a much better response. Her horse was staying out of her space and going forward with a subtle ask. I think Chrissy was feeling more empowered, too! We talked about trailriding that way until she gets all her confidence back. I hope she gives that a try.

The sun was setting quickly and the temp was dropping. I decided to load up a few horses and head to my friend's indoor arena. It's a good situation - I give her lessons and she lets me use her indoor whenever I want to. So, I loaded Gemini, Rain, Tina and Cowboy. Chrissy wanted to come along, which was great!

The horses loaded fairly easily. Tina is probably accustomed to being lead into the trailer and I want her able to be sent in - so that's how we did it. She doesn't know how to back out of the trailer, so we worked on that a bit. I made a mental note to get that fixed up soon. Gemini is still slightly concerned about the panel closing, so we took the time and her was ok. Cowboy loaded last and he was happy to follow after 3 others into the trailer.

Once there, I started with Gemini. He has a swollen area on the right girth behind his elbow. I decided not to saddle him. Guessing he got a defensive kick when he was trying to boss another horse around. We played on the ground just a little and then I taught him to bring his hind end to me - the beginning of sidling up to a mounting block or fence. He's never done that and it took a few mins. Once he understood, we went to the mounting block and I rode him bareback. We practiced backing up, disengaging, moving the fore and simply walking around quietly. He was calm and really doing nicely! I was impressed as the other 3 horses were running around the arena willy-nilly.

Then, I tacked up Rain to get some things done with Tina. I need Tina to be a good pony horse for me so I can get her out on the trail for more distance. First, Rain was pretty bracey from Kendall riding her the last few times. So, we practiced lateral flexion for several minutes. Then, once she was softer, I took Tina around working on yielding to the poll pressure and yielding to my carrot stick when I asked her to go from side-to-side. She was overreactive at first and we just kept at it, with me being as subtle as possible and releasing on the the slightest try from her. She got braver and more confident as time when on and by the end, she was beautifully switching from a left-side pony horse to a right-side, walking when we walked, stopping when we stopped. Ahhh - a huge improvement! We'll be able to get some good things done on the trail now. We finished by standing quietly for maybe 10 mins, me on Rain, Tina next to us with her nose nearly touching Rain and Gemini right behind. Gemini had followed us at liberty the whole time - that was very interesting and surprising! He wanted to fall in line and follow, unusual for a boss hog horse like him.

While I was playing with the my three horses, Chrissy had been enjoying Cowboy. They practiced driving game, circling, and some other things. She also enjoyed just watching the horses interact while we were in a more enclosed area. Cowboy and Gemini played a little, Rain didn't do much at all, and Tina trotted around everyone stopping often to check every object out. Tina has become much calmer since she arrived and I expect to see her get calmer every month she's here in training. She's learning the language we use and she's finding her place. She's a little fat right now- which means she's getting plenty to eat in the large herd. I'm super pleased with how she's doing.

At the end, I asked Chrissy if she'd get on her horse bareback and she surprised me by saying YES! So, she got on and I helped her find her balance and ride with her horses back. She didn't seem too afraid and her horse was super calm for her. It was a triumphant moment as she hasn't ridden a horse bareback since she was a kid. I'd love to see her do that more - it's the best way to learn balance and building an independent seat. Good for Chrissy!

We loaded all the horses up to head home. My trailer light isn't working, so we had to load the horses into a dark trailer. Rain was not at all worried and I loaded her first. Then Tina. Tina was a little reluctant, but I didn't force her and just applied approach and retreat. Gem was a little concerned about the panel closing again, but it took 20 seconds for him to find calmness. Cowboy loaded last, but he kept turning around and wanting to come out. It took a few minutes to get him calm enough to stand while the door closed.

It was great to get that many horses going last night, loading, playing in an indoor, ponying, bareback riding... Fantastic.

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