Link’s groundwork (we just sampled in a few games) was great – looking to move him up into the 22’ line now that we’ve got our 12’ line work brushed up on...tomorrow? Under-saddle he was a little tenser today than yesterday, but still very manageable and I felt very safe on him! This is quite the progress for us, because when I first got him I did not feel the least bit safe on his back and even our first day out here on the ranch, I didn’t feel safe on him. He still flings his head a little and dances with his front end when he’s anxious, but he hasn’t reared or bucked at all (which he does when his brain hits overload), which is fabulous…the work we’re doing is pushing him but not past his emotional limits.
I was afraid yesterday’s muddy episode would have scared Link off of working in the muck at all with me, but, surprisingly, I found the opposite to be true! I left his halter on beneath his bridle and led him through the mud (after having him walk down into the gulley), asking him to halt on the other side (still in some mud). There we just spent some downtime relaxing, where he could take some deep breaths. He had followed me down very willingly and through the mud, but was still pretty anxious from doing what I had asked (he stood quietly, but just had an anxious energy and mild hindquarter tremors at first). We spent a good ten minutes or so between there and up on the little bank above and next to the creek, relaxing and walking through the deep, sucking muck. Link did great, with no full-blown panic episodes whatsoever!! He was not nearly as upset today as he had been yesterday either…I was pretty impressed with my boy. The rest of the one-hour ride was spent relaxing on our way home! I think we’ll do the same for a few days (crossing the water via ground and playing in the mud) before tackling it again under-saddle. Link did very well today though, including working through his back a lot!! The first part of the ride he maybe worked through his back about 40 percent of the time (which is still more than usual for him), but the latter half of the ride, he worked through his topline a good 80 percent or more! I was so proud!!!
I just wanted to briefly point out, via an example, of how you can seem to be going backwards with your horse, when indeed you are making progress. I had worked out a lot of one-sidedness in Link in the arena – he tends to arc to the left when he’s tense and to be less responsive on that side as well at times (when his mind is elsewhere). Most of it was pretty much gone, but taking him out here and working with him, it has “come back”. In reality however, it’s not that it has come back, but that we had yet to fully fix the issue. In the arena, there are less distractions and Link is more relaxed, so it was only a matter of time before he was relaxed enough to work out the one-sidedness. Take him outside however, and he has so much more to worry about, to think about, to be distracted by; it's an added challenge (outside). So while the one-sidedness was nearly gone in the arena, we took it (the challenge) up a notch going outside – I was throwing a bigger challenge at Link now. So instead of going backward, we’re simply now tackling a bigger challenge and continuing to build on that foundation we created in the arena! Keep in mind that the same can follow for any horse – maybe you are not going backward, maybe you’re just asking something more demanding of your horse (whether it be due to environment, etc) and so it will take a little time to conquer the new challenge and you will have to overcome old tendencies that resurface.
Cody was also out for an hour and was ridden, western, in the Parelli hackamore! I started riding him out here in a full-cheek French-link snaffle, which is unusual for me, but I wanted to get him in a soft rope halter as soon as possible, and I felt today to be appropriate. I spent a lot of time correcting his left side, as he seemed to arc to that side but then travel right (lol)…I think in part because he may have been conscious of the leadrope tied to my saddle on that side. I think also though that he is a bit one-sided on that side, so we’ll keep working on it. We traveled around to the creek (he handled the creek beautifully when we crossed downstream from where we usually do) and downstream (or upstream, really – I have no idea, since the beavers have dammed up the creek enough that there really isn’t much movement, lol, and the drought has stripped the creek of much of its water in some areas) a little ways before following a trail back up the side of the gulley. It was beautiful and I was very pleased to be on Cody – we rode along the edge of the gulley a bit yet he never put a step wrong (even when I failed to direct him because I was so caught up with the view below, lol). The trip home the two of us came across a gorgeous trail along the western side of the property – absolutely stunning. We even spooked what I assume to be last night’s deer herd, hidden in the bush today! Aly had already chased a fox in the 30C heat and decided to let the deer be, lol. Both Cody and Link were pretty sweated up by the end of their rides, though neither really worked all that hard and we spent a lot of time in the shade. It was still pretty hot though and I know how refreshed I feel after a cold shower, so I bathed each of my boys after their rides as well. I wasn’t sure Cody would allow me to bathe him, but much to my surprise, he did!! He was a little leery of it, but still pretty calm and thinking. He did super well!! He was also much easier to catch today and even allowed me the privilege of walking up to him and petting his barrel! Our little man is getting there! His groundwork went great as well, and I think he is ready to be doing the latter 2 of the 7 games now. I want to really work on our games a lot (particularly the friendly game with myself and various objects such as tarps and saddle blankets, even the saddle itself), but will do more (including liberty work in the new roundpen where we board at!!) at home. Out here, I want to focus on getting Cody moved out, trusting my leadership, and working in partnership with me. His foundation needs work, but I feel it can wait a bit (we’re still building it, just slower than I normally would – typically I’d put more focus on it and less on riding out on the trails at this stage) and that right now, riding where we’re at would be most advantageous to our situation. I want to make full use of the ranch while we’ve got it to use!! One last point is that I feel he is safe enough to ride out, so we had might as well make full use of the trails we have access to now, and use them to further develop Cody :)
Anyway, that is about it for the day! I wasn’t so productive in other areas but am content with it – my boys’ respective successes made up for it, and I’ll do more housework tomorrow ;) I’m not looking forward to returning home (lol), it’s just been so great out here! I have four days at home – horse assessment, vet call, showing Missy to a potential customer…it’s going to be busy, then I get to return here for another week ;)