After spending the day grocery shopping, chatting up Canadian Tire, and cleaning house – even somehow making it through my mid-afternoon energy low without a nap (on a day “off”? That’s downright miraculous!! lmao), I decided it was time to take the big black (or, to be more correct, dark bay) kid out (aka Link) on a trail ride. I was glad though to have adventured into the realm of groundwork before actually climbing onto that back when I uncovered a lot of reactivity and lack of focus. All he could think about was his friends, and he was downright little-kid-on-a-sugar-kick about it, even a little rebellious at times. By the time we were finished (all of 10 minutes maybe), he had already worked himself into quite the sweat. I swung up and we headed out. Link was pretty reactive at first – a walk was all we could muster, and it was a tense one at that. A bush horse, he is not…yet (hehehe). Sticky muck horse he definitely is not, so he made me get off and lead him halfway across the country through bush to make it around the thick boggy muck to the meadow on the other side. Once on the other side, we worked on some of the flat-ish ground on some lateral work and engagement – which he did a bit! I was quite proud of him for relaxing enough to do collection (etc) at all, as he was quite tense! From then on he was much better – trotting and cantering most of the ways – even downhill, my own nemesis (due to my lack of trust in him). Trouble is, he obviously does not fully trust my leadership either (he willingly left his herdmates with me, but was quite tense a lot of the ride and questioned my leadership several times – “what? Go there??! Are you sure??!"), so I need to just throw myself in, sit deep, relax, and trust him! By doing so I can allow him to trust me, because I am conveying to him (inadvertently) that I trust him as well (and that I am relaxed!). Anyways, we circled the entire property, including past the various groups of cattle, down the steep bank Cody and I traveled the other day, through the creek, and up the other side (though I led Link the entire way to, through, and past the creek), and through hills and bush home. We were lucky enough to see the resident beavers seated on the banks of the creek upon our return home – it was pretty incredible!! The view throughout was breathtaking and the ride a fun one, including the couple jumps I put Link over closer to home (small downed logs). I was surprised – the jumps were rather small (the highest was probably only about a foot tall) yet he still jumped them (as opposed to trying to trot over them)…which is good, because we’ll take up small jumps regularly when I feel he is ready – smaller jumps will allow me to work on my seat and also build Link’s fitness up to where we can eventually jump bigger. Link’s lack of faith in my leadership was also evident in his questioning my path over the jump – he did jump, but I had to use some leg to guide him over the logs, as he was happy just cantering past them (lol). He is still questioning me, so I am glad we are doing what we are doing.
At one point with Link (when we reached our “arena pasture”), three black dogs (like black American Eskimos!?) rushed at us, or more, rushed at my pup Aly, who was with us at the time. Of course Link didn’t realize they were rushing Aly - he just saw three dogs rushing towards him, aggressively, and tensed up. Can’t blame him! During our work he continued to watch the dogs with his peripheral and ears (whenever they broached the trees) and tense up occasionally, but otherwise he was fantastic – no flight, no fight, nothing. He was excited, but not beyond help ;) On that note, I was exceptionally proud also of our Doberman cross pup (I say pup, but she is 3 years old now! Lol), who could have been involved in a fight easily with just one wrong move. She held her own but ignored the other dogs when necessary and was very responsive to my requests! I had to correct the other three dogs a couple of times though, as they were keen on a fight and kept rushing us, but they soon learned to keep at bay.
Trust seems to be a big theme today, as I also worked on it extensively with Cody as well! It’s weird, whenever I am around Cody (actually around him, not just when I am thinking about or talking about him), the name Dusty pops in my head. I can’t quite make sense of it yet, I don’t know why I have this overwhelming sense to call him by some other name! Anyways, back onto sane talk…I had to corner Cody to play with him, but I used a lot of body language to keep him in the corner as well as driving game to keep his bum away from me (he still turns it in to keep me at bay so that I can’t catch him, same as he did with his previous owner), then approach and retreat until he was letting me touch his hind end, then his barrel, then his neck, and finally, his head. Eventually I just wrapped my arms around him and relaxed with him; it was great to just feel the tension drain from his body as his head slowly lowered. I led him towards the house but “lost” him en route and had to “re-catch” him once again – it was much easier the second time around! Once at the house, he stood quietly, at liberty, while I brushed him. Once he left to follow Silver and Link, who were walking away, but I followed and he allowed me to catch up to him (just loose, no corners or anything) and finish brushing him. Afterwards, I laid out a grain treat for everyone and Cody even let me approach him there (only his hind, mind you) as well. I was pretty happy to make such a big step with him and am looking forward to an entire week of progress!