This is going to be a quick one before I take off for bed, it's been a long and busy day!
The big paint was easy to catch today - we played all 7 games beautifully (he now backs on the yo-yo game when I so much as glare at him, then comes right back in when I relax my body posture), including some improvised figure-8 (using the squeeze game but with a lot of changes in direction). Next I tacked him up...to find a pufferfish!! And you thought they only dwelled in water... As soon as I commenced tightening that cinch, he humped his back and puffed out his belly...at which point I, surprised, took a short step backwards, eyebrows raised towards him, to see if he'd blow. He didn't. Lol. I had him circle in either direction until he was no longer humping his back up or throwing in little crow hops - until he seemed half comfortable with things. Next I did put weight in either stirrup and stood up on either side, but I never swung my leg over. He was uncomfortable enough with the saddle (prior), and then with my standing in the stirrup, that I felt it would be pushing it too far to actually sit on him and/or have him do something. My main issue is not the crow hopping, that's not an issue, we can always ride that out (though I'd prefer not to - I'd prefer if he did not feel he had to buck!). My issue is how he blocks me out when he gets scared. What I can envision happening is for me to mount up and ask him something, only to have him explode (and this horse has the power and ability to buck hard) and completely block me out, so that I cannot even a) have any chance of control, and b) have any chance at calming him down. It's a long ways down. So my goal is to deal with this in progressive steps. For the most part, we've sorted out all his ground issues - he no longer blocks me out on the ground as part of our regular work. Next is to get him comfortable with the saddle, then with my standing in the stirrup, and finally with my mounting up and us doing work. Piece by piece though. If I push him, I'm going to create a bad impression on him. If I take it slow, he should come along fairly easily and cleanly. I don't know about the next person, but I'm not particularly fond of bruises. Or broken bones. Never had a broken bone yet *knock on wood*, so let's keep it that way.
I had to herd her into the alleyway but once I did, I was once again able to catch her there. I spent a good 10-15 min just getting her comfortable with me and rubbing her all over. Much improved over last session even!
Mustachio man walked off when I first came into the pasture, but once I walked up to him and sort of blocked him a little, he turned and walked up to me and allowed me to halter him without hesitation or trouble. He did well at his games - very well, actually. We did them without tack today and my using my stick to extend my arm. He tacked up fairly nice (and untacked nicely too, actually - we worked on his remaining relaxed while being untacked last session and it seems to have held). He was great under-saddle. His circles are better, his stops are fabulous, his back-up is softer, and his turns on the hind and fore are coming along. His trot was more consistent as well, and his walk was pretty relaxed. He's even straightening out on the left rein, so that he is not arcing so much to the right when travelling to the left. Fab progress!
After getting the three done in the morning, I joined mom for her lesson with Sonny's trainer, down near Millarville and inside the Kananaskis. It was fantastic, she did a lot of things she would never have allowed me to push her to do, and she accomplished a lot! She also had a lot of fun ;) While she rode Sonny, the trainer handed me the keys to a coming-5yo Standardbred mare off the track. I'm in love. Haha. She was a pleasure to work with (we did ground work as well as under-saddle work) and I've fallen in love with Standardbreds. This trainer, from his experiences, feels STB's are more level headed than TB's, that they are less inclined to become "hot" so quickly. Quick interjection here: a Thoroughbred (same as an Arabian, or any other "hot" breed), while challenging and certainly higher energy for the most part (generally speaking), do not have to be 'hot' all the time. They can be worked with in such a way that all that energy is harnessed and channeled, where they are easily manageable and calm. But back to the main story. This little mare has not been off the track all that long and has not been worked under-saddle prior, yet she has only been there a week and a half and is already comfortable and working nicely both on the ground and under-saddle. What a great little mare. As a bonus, I love that Standardbred gait. The fast-paced trot is a little rough, but - I felt, still smoother to ride than a fast-paced "normal horse" trot (ie. TB or QH). The jog is absolutely fabulous - sort of in between a TWH and say a Thoroughbred. It's kind of got this rocking motion to it and you have the feeling you could go for miles at that pace. It was absolutely wonderful. On another note, Sonny looks like he's doing great under-saddle. When I rode him he was very responsive to leg aids and while he's not the softest yet, I think I can have him soft fairly easily and quickly. He was great with mom though, very relaxed and responsive to her.
Last note: I may be riding in the Calgary Stampede Parade!! It's pretty exciting. Twist's owner has offered me the chance to ride with him and his wagon crew. He actually offered me the chance to ride in both the Airdrie Parade as well as the CS Parade, but I don't think I will have the time to ride in both. I have to confirm with him, but if I do take him up on the offer (likely), then I will have to work Silver a good chunk over the next two weeks to have him ready! Pretty exciting though ;P