Thursday, March 26, 2009

Of coyotes and dogs

Today I had to jet off back to my EMT practicum and so only had time to work with the little yellow mare Chicka. I felt pretty bad for pulling the little Dee out of her pasture, as when I got out there today she was actually munching on some hay...she stood quietly for me while I worriedly and somewhat annoyedly (make new word up today: check) watched Aly (my dog) disappear to the size of a small black dot as she chased after a coyote (she actually nearly caught him too!), then also as I fiddled with the halter and finally got it on her head. No more halting and refusing to walk forward, either! Now she calmly follows behind without my applying any pressure to the lead.

We started out today with trotting the figure-8 and weave patterns, which she performed beautifully with minimal direction and only minor mistakes. We did some traveling circle, transitions and changes in direction - the latter being a little rough but successful all the same (practise makes perfect). Next we moved on to the games; her porcupine was pretty dull but we spiced it up with some driving game and brought it to some lighter phases. The rest of her games were done on the 22' as well and were pretty much your norm for the day. She was, as usual, very quiet to saddle up and mount up. Our 3-part maneuver was pretty clean until she spotted - from the corner of her eye - a white pickup truck drive past the open door. I don't think she actually got a good look at it, so just seeing the movement and hearing an unfamiliar noise had her distracted and wary of that end of the arena for nearly the entire session. As time passed she became quieter though and after getting a good look at the truck as it drove past in the opposite direction later, she was almost back to her normal self. Liiiitle jumpy but otherwise pretty much LB. We of course did the figure-8 pattern (trot and walk), at which she performed brilliantly - very soft on both sides. Next we tackled some walk along the rail just focusing on sticking to the rail, some trot, some small circles on the rail (alright), and lastly, some canter on the rail! She was pretty soft on the left rein and was very relaxed during her laps. Since she was still a little leery of the open-door-end-of-the-arena, she tended to cut corners there a little at first (I even was "lucky" - hehe - enough to experience some true cutting-horse-action as she cut the corner and also a barrel I had set up with the figure-8 pattern...her idea not mine haha) but after a lap she was moving into the corners fairly deep for me. The right rein is still not her strong side so we ended up doing about 4 laps in that direction - I wanted to wait to transition her down until she was relaxed and was not cutting corners. She also had the tendency to go extremely deep into one of the far corners and almost hit the wall today, despite by attempts to draw her down the long side of the arena (rather than straight...into the wall, lol)...I have full confidence that as she relaxes on the right rein at the canter though she'll balance herself better and be more responsive to my requests. So we'll keep at 'er!

She was going so well that I thought we'd venture a bit outside...after all I would like to get her out on the trails a number of times before she goes home. She's still a young horse and needs all the experience she can get. I wasn't sure if she was ready yet though, so at first we just stuck to the outdoor arena. There the ground was pretty hard so we mostly walked (few trot steps, but that was it, I did not want to stress her legs on that hard ground or risk her slipping and falling). There was also a lot of deep snow at either end of the arena, but especially at the far end - horse-knee deep; she never batted an eye when I asked her to go through it multiple times, all the while carrying me. She of course was interested in her surroundings and so was looking around curiously, but was 99 percent LB the entire time and was 99 percent focused entirely on what I was asking! The Dee would bend when I asked her to, change direction, do figure-8's, circle...whatever I asked, without qualm (and all within sight of other distractions, such as horses). Finally, I opened the arena gate off her back and we ventured outside and explored a bit of the yard together. Again she was very curious but calm and very responsive, even in new areas we had not yet explored together even on foot. I was not sure how she would be today and was a little leery of riding her outside in a rope hackamore (the Parelli one), but she blew me away. My rule is always: if I can't ride a horse in a hackamore (and preferably bridleless, but 30 or 60 days with a horse does not allow for all that much liberty work!), I have no business riding that horse in a bit. On the other hand, safety first, so if I can't ride that horse in a hackamore, I need to get off (and maybe stick to the arena first to build a stronger foundation). Buuut that is also why I proceeded with the outdoor arena first, as opposed to the fields nearby :) Even when she spooked at the truck in the arena, she still remained responsive and allowed me to bend her to a stop; afterwards she was tense but she remained pretty responsive and was not explosively reactive in the least. Her remaining responsive despite being afraid gave me confidence that outside the arena I could still maintain control. So next shot we'll do some outdoor ring riding again before perhaps (depending on the session) tackling some field riding! Wooohaa!

No comments: