Thursday, June 11, 2009

Anyone feel like a snowman today?

Wow, what a hot day! At one point I was standing there in the sun, in jeans and a tee, watching Twist circling about me, wondering why I couldn't just wear shorts while training horses...I could feel the heat being trapped in between my skin and jeans - not a pleasant sensation! When your eyelids are sweaty, you know it's hot out. Just in case the sensation of melting hadn't tipped you off already.

I finally actually feel like Twist is a real bona fida saddle horse! Today he came running in with everyone else (the lead mare, the little pony I call Nubs almost always comes roaring in to greet me - all outsiders get the once-over by her first, so of course everyone else usually follows) and walked right up to me to be caught (with a few rubs, of course!). We started off today with our grooming session as usual, then tacked up. Yesterday's work using the carrot stick and just throwing in some small things really cleaned up today's ground games! He was pivoting on his hind end quite nicely and on a very light touch today, was very responsive to the driving game, and overall just did excellent with all 7 games. So, time to mount up! No bucks whatsoever today, he was much more comfortable under-saddle. A few instances where he felt the need to scoot his bum beneath him quickly, but that's about it. Our session today consisted of working more on all our basics in the pens. We worked on walking relaxedly, halting (he eventually did it from a trot when I relaxed my seat!!), circles on the rail, figure-8's, turns on the hind and fore (not so pretty today, I was right yesterday in thinking that he hadn't quite picked it up yet...yesterday's success can be attributed to his wanting to move his feet and my setting him up correctly to succeed, but today he didn't fully understand and was relaxed enough to not feel the need to have to move his feet about), back-up, and trot! His jog was relatively relaxed (after a few strides) to the right, but on the left rein he kept arcing his body to the right, so we worked quite a bit on that side at getting it straighter (which will come more once we've developed leg aids as well) and just more relaxed overall. The arcing is simply because he is tense and feels the need to watch that side (for Velocoraptors, of course - never know when they might pop out), once he relaxes he'll be a little more straight and supple. Establishing leg aids will also help me later at developing a better bend in him. We finished on an excellent note with a horse that is pretty confident in the basics. Though he is only meant as a trail horse, all that we have been practising thus far remains important because it serves to develop him into a more confident, relaxed, and thinking (as opposed to reactive) partner under-saddle, even if his rider say, never asks for a single turn on the forehand in the future. It's not about the exercises and maneuvers themselves, it is about the mind those exercises and maneuvers (challenges, learning experiences) develop, thus making him a (potentially!) successful horse under-saddle.

The big paint pony is hanging out with Gypsy, who is still terrified of people, so of course when she got all hyped up over this red-haired version of a Velocoraptor, so did he. He wanted nothing to do with me today, despite his laid-back ground sessions the last few days. So I trotted him on down into one of the smaller pens and roundpenned him. It took a bit, but pretty soon figured out I was the good guy: stand next to me and you don't have to work, run amok like some chicken with its head cut off, and you run around the pen on a sweltering hot day. He voted for option #1 rather quickly and was soon following me about. His ground games (all 7) went well, though today we stumbled across some future work for us and a possible reason for his prior poor behaviour under-saddle (for his owner). Fear. While he's a pretty balanced horse, has a relatively short flight path (ie. short spook, doesn't go too far), and is not all that reactive, he can at times get into this fear-based mode where he blocks everything out and just flees. Everything, being code for: me. For example, while having him circle, if I want him to turn and face, he might turn and face, or he might just run faster. Or, while playing the driving game and asking him to move his front end away from me (we did finish successfully in the end, with a thinking, responsive horse moving his front end around several steps when I asked) - on his bad side - he would back and back and back, then bolt (despite my not escalating my phases though continuing to quietly ask). During his bolting phase, he completely blocks everything out. No thinking whatsoever. So I'm working on him to first: earn his trust so that he doesn't feel the need to bolt from me, and second: teaching him to think rather than blindly react. I definitely got through to him today and made progress, during the driving game, so I anticipate we will make more progress quickly. He's a smart horse, when he's thinking. We finished the day with a pretty sweaty horse, but overall relaxed - plenty of the lip smacking going on.

She wasn't too bad to catch today, but it did take a few minutes of roundpenning. A few times she actually looked like she wanted to come in, but I sent her out regardless, to further cement what I wanted. She didn't really walk up to me today (optimal), but she did stand and allow me to rub her face, then snap the leadrope onto her halter (we're getting close to the point where we can remove it, after only 3 sessions now - I think I will remove it after a session or two next week). I spent the next fifteen minutes or so just rubbing her and brushing her (uber shiny!) coat. I'm in no rush so we'll work slowly. I think though next week I'll try to wedge a foot into the door of her Buddy List by taking her out for some grazing time. She already grazes 24/7 where she's at, but not the real long nice grass! And I'd love for her to feel comfortable enough around me to graze.

Rather than working her in the arena today, I voted on working her in the pen with her buddies, to see if that made a difference. It didn't. Not really, anyways. She was great with all her games except for the circling game. She'd circle some, then (usually in Koolaid's direction) she'd stop and back. She's a powerhouse, there's no holding her, lol. If she backs, you back with her. Hence, the need for a roundpen! Lol. I tried telling her to back when she wanted to back, I tried just passively backing with her while continuing to ask her to circle, I tried everything. I think what I really need to do are a couple of things. 1. Forget about the fitness plan, or at least forget about doing it for 5 min straight on each side (for now). Maybe have her circle for 5 minutes, rest for 2, then circle another 5 (as we've been doing), but doing circles in either direction each set (rather than having her circle in one direction for 5, then the opp direction for the other 5; include both directions in each set of 5). I think she's using boredom as an added excuse. Keep her changing directions. Or, even just forget about so much circling and get her under-saddle and getting fit that way. Or pony her off of Koolaid! 2. Spend more friendly time with her. Since she's come back, she's had 2 weeks to herself really before being tossed into sweaty days in the hot UV rays. No wonder she really could give a rat's a** about me. I'm making her work. Hard. Lazy horse being made to work hard...yea I'm thinking she's probably got a reason to protest circling so much. Maybe just take her out for some good 1-on-1 grazing and rubbing time. So, I'll have to change some things up a bit with her, get her wanting to work with me. I'm proud of the foundation she's got on her and of how much she retained from our work last year, but I need to re-establish that partnership with her. Ugh, so much work. Hahahaha. Whoever said training horses was easy?? I also tossed myself up onto her back, bareback and with a halter, today. I guess I was, y'know, feeling a little like I needed to live more on the edge...what with Twist on such good behaviour now. Man I'm brilliant (jk!). She started at first but relaxed immediately afterwards. I didn't ask her to do anything, but just sat up there for a moment before dismounting. Yup, she'll be fine for some saddle work next week ;P I'm proud of my mare. As much of a challenge she is, I still love her. She's doing a good job and she's teaching me enough to last me a lifetime.

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