Monday, June 15, 2009

Back on Track

I headed out to the barn again this morning looking forward to the prospect of a nice ride. Once there, however, I began to doubt I would get one. Steen and the herd were way, way out at the end of the biggest pasture, and Steen didn't seem at all disposed to come meet me at the gate today. He waited until I was near the edge of the herd before making his way over the me. I put his halter on, and started back up to the gate. He walked along fine at first, but after a moment he stopped. I looked back and saw he was adding some manure to help fertilize the pasture. Naturally, I let him finish with that, and afterwards we started walking again. But we only made it about a third of the way back across the pasture when he stopped again. I looked back, but he wasn't doing anything other than apparently deciding he didn't want to follow me. Now, this is something he used to do, like, a year ago and I was none-too-happy to see the behavior resurface today. Luckily, I've learned a few more tricks since this was last a problem, and I didn't waste any time trying to coax him. I walked back to his shoulder and made him disengaged his hind-quarters, rapidly, and after that he followed me again. Until, that is, we were about 2/3 of the way out of the pasture. Then he stopped again. I made him disengage again, and he followed me again. After that we made it all the way to the barn door, which he then refused to enter. I made him back up and disengage. Then he followed me in, and we went down to his grooming area.

He was a pain while I groomed him and tacked him up. He kept pulling his "surruptitiously ease towards the aisle in preparation for swiveling out of place" stunt - another habit I thought he'd more or less grown out of. Needless to say, by the time we made it to the indoor arena, I was more than little annoyed and seriously questioning whether or not I should even try to ride.

But, I decided to start off with a good solid chunk of ground-work and see how things went from there, and so for 15 minutes we worked on all the various exercises we learned last year. He definitely had a few moments of defiance; once absolutely refusing to flex to the halter, so I made him disengage a full 360 degrees and then asked again. After that he flexed nicely. I responded to his other disrepectiful behaviors with similar firm but not angry responses, and by the end of those 15 minutes, he'd stopped yawning in my face, ignoring me, and crowding in prematurely for pets and rewards. He'd also calmed down. Today the wind was really gusting, and I think that was part of the reason he was so naughty initially. Poor behavior and nerves definitely go hand in hand wih Steen, and the wind makes him antsy.

After the ground-work, I hopped on and was very pleasantly surprised by the ride that followed. He walked like a normal, respecful horse from the moment I got on, almost never moving with his head up, listening for things to spook at like he sometimes does. We did a lot of exercises at the walk, and he behaved gloriously, even seeming downright relaxed at times. Then we trotted for a while and he gave me a nicer, mellower trot than he has in months, never speeding up or getting sloppy like he did the entire time the last time I rode him. Then he stopped completely to a verbal woh (ok, three verbal wohs, but still, he slowed each time I said it and did eventually stop with no rein). He was good (for him) about standing, and willingly followed the rail in both directions with only minimal, very, very light, ocassional corrections.

So, it was a surprisingly nice ride and did a lot to reassure me that we haven't lost as much ground as I feared. I know I prove this to myself again and again, but I just really need to keep in mind that, with Steen anyway, groundwork is key, and when I neglect it, everything suffers... particularly me.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, Tranikla is kinda the same way. If I just hop on him "cold" he's moody and disrespectful. If I do some groundwork first (usually at liberty), he's usually pretty well behaved. It's such a difference from Trekker, who hates groundwork, but is usually fine with just riding.

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