Friday, August 21, 2009

Using the weather to your advantage

Today we hit 31C - at that temperature, my jeans started sticking to me and I could swear I was about to melt. Oh, that was just stepping out of the truck. Nevermind grabbing a horse, saddling him up, and heading out on a ride!

Sunny was my first horse of choice today. To start, we did very limited groundwork - a little as we walked in from his pasture, and a little circling as I tightened the cinch in stages prior to mounting up. Poor Sunny was sorry, I am sure, that he had fluffed up a winter coat when it turned cold on us a couple of weeks ago! Poor guy was absolutely dripping by the time we returned from our ride, and that was just keeping things at a walk!! His owner, on another mare, and I headed through one of their canola crops (destroyed by the terrible storms two weeks ago) to eventually skirt a ravine. It was a nice ride, and it wasn't long before you grew accustomed-ish to the heat. Sunny was fantastic - he stepped right out and never put a foot wrong. I was very proud of him. I think we will do mostly "arena" work the next two sessions, then when I return from Drayton (he will get a day or two off) after this weekend, we will do more trail riding (6 days left when I return).

Gypsy was great and even allowed me to catch her again without roundpenning her. On previous occasions, it is not that I had to roundpen her, but I chose to - I didn't want to have to walk up and catch her while she was cornered, I wanted her to come to me or at least stand and allow me to walk up, which is what she has been doing the past two sessions. We played our "usual" 5 games:
Friendly - she is now allowing me to touch her everywhere, hind legs inclusive. I have even been applying a bit of pressure on them, in prep for having her pick them up for me (almost there!). She also allowed me to swing the end of my rope over her back, neck, and around her hindquarters and legs. Lastly, I also played around a lot with her head, including waving my hands around her head to the point where she no longer flinched.
Porcupine - she is no longer exploding and is now backing and moving her hind/fore almost perfectly!
Driving - she's always been a bit leery about my driving her front end around, but today she moved her front around (both sides) very nicely and very calmly - I have to keep my body language very "quiet" though when asking her; it takes so little pressure to ask her to do something.
Yo-Yo - little mare seems to have this one figured out! We yo-yo'd back and forth three times, with her backing up when I wiggled my forearm (but the lead at the bottom of her chin was not yet moving whatsoever), and coming in when I relaxed my posture - sweet!
Circling - she still circles with her body mostly arced so that she can watch me, but she is starting to relax and straighten out her body as she understands what I want. Today was the first day I stood still and allowed her to walk behind me, as opposed to following her movement with my body. We did 6 sets of about 2 laps, 3 sets in each direction, before calling it a day.
Last game we played was the squeeze game, though mostly just to see where she was at (I was not even sure she would do it, and was pleasantly surprised when she did). I stood at the opening to the gate and pointed her through (a gap of approx. 4 feet). She hesitantly followed my lead, then bolted through the last couple of feet and spun around. I remained relaxed and didn't even turn around to face her and close the gate until she'd had a moment to breathe, which seemed to help her relax a little.
Overall though, she did excellent. Plenty of chewing and lip-licking, and even some cocked hind leg as she rested and relaxed!

Missy was my last student of the day (too tired to work Link, though he did get fed his mash of course - big kid's just lovin' life now, extra feed and everything, without even having to work for it! lol). We worked in the arena some, first on the ground of course - I worked hard at keeping her respect level and thus impulsion up and worked her on the patterns her second time (figure-8 and some circling game extensions). I also cantered her on the circling game - trying to gradually teach her to balance herself at the canter on the ground, so that she can do it under-saddle. Under-saddle she was pretty responsive - we worked on w/t/c (her canter was better today - a little more balanced and a snappier transition into it when we first went for it) as well as some lateral work (leg yield, sidepass). The lateral work was a little rough (not rhythmic or fluid and such) but will improve as we continue to work on it. Her turns on the forehand were much smoother today - the smoothest and best they have ever been! Lastly, we also worked on engaging and rounding on circles, which she did nicely when I worked in the proper position (lol). I had to be extremely diligent about keeping my entire body soft (including my hands, shoulders, and legs), shifting my weight appropriately, and keeping my reins short and hands in the proper positions! I really concentrated on staying soft with her today, and as a result, she also stayed soft! Her back-up was brilliant, and she was much keener on letting me up on her back even today; usually I mount-up in the arena (she does still stand nicely), but today she allowed me to mount from a mounting block (last few times she stands sideways and will not let me up), which sort of required "extra" permission from Queen Bee herself ;) We did not work too long in the arena before we hit the trails (1 - I do not want to sour her and 2 - she did so well I wanted to reward her and make sure she was enjoying being worked, it can be very important to impress upon a horse at times just how well they did). The weather by this time was absolutely beautiful - the lowered sun was not beating down on us so hard, yet it was still very warm. While we were still in sight of the barn, she was pretty hesitant - not fighting me at all, but just hesitant in her strides (and constantly looking back). No whinnying though and no refusals to move forward or such. Once we were out of sight of the barns and then later headed back, she strode right out. She was calm, relaxed, and willing - it was great! Riding her out in the fields though definitely caused me to directly notice her huge movement!!

So, that was it for the day! Tomorrow we are picking up the new horse, Cody, as well as Silver. Both horses will be brought to the same facility Missy and Link (and Sonny) are at. Then hopefully Sunday Link, Cody and Silver will be headed to Drayton. I will follow them up and stay in Drayton a day or two to work cattle and repair fences prior to returning home for a week to finish up training with Sunny and Gypsy. Then it is back up to Drayton, for the month of September. I will likely be down weekly though (3 days a week approx.) to keep Missy progressing. More explanations on the title of this blog at The Perfect Horse ;)

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