Monday, October 26, 2009

Barn Weekend

Last week we got a lot of rain. I went out for a solo ride on Tuesday, during which I was having a hard time getting Steen to walk away from the barn. Then it rained and rained and rained for the rest of the week.

On Saturday the farrier came, so I held Steen and Brian held Cal and they were both good. I showed Duke the split in the back of Steen's right-front hoof and he said it is better if they don't have cracks there but this one is not deep enough to be concerned about yet. He said such splits are often caused by wet and mud - which means, I suppose, Iowa. He just said to keep an eye on it, and if it gets worse I can start trying to treat it. So, not great news but not horrible. I think it formed because he got thrush in that foot and the frog shed out rather deeper than normal and so that part of his hoof had less support than it is supposed to.

Anyway, after their trims, Brian and I spent quite a while on grooming and ground-work with our two steeds. I also did some groundwork with Cal. She is so different from Steen. She is much slower to respond, less sensitive and she is also just a bit of a wreck, confirmationally speaking. She's got more over-bred quarter-horse structural flaws than any horse I've ever seen in person, and she's so upright in the hind end she hardly even lifts her hind legs when she moves. (Which, of course, gives her a great jog...) She was willing to work with me though, and paid attention and figured out what I was asking for quickly. She seems to genuinely appreciate praise and petting and I had no trouble getting her to do what I asked as long as I gave her a moment to figure it out and react. I did some groundwork with Steen, too, just to keep him honest, and then we put them back in the pasture without riding.

On Sunday we went again and found hooks in our tack locker and our bridles and halters hanging up! We went to the pasture, Cal saw Brian, and walked right to him. From no small distance away, too. Steen, on the other hand, made me slog through the mud to the large bale to get him. *grumble grumble

We took our time grooming and tacking up, and then retired to the strip. I told Brian to restrict his hand movements to only two motions - stop and turn, and otherwise use his legs. With Steen, I have been trying to really focus on super super consistent riding and lots of positive reinforcement. It occurred to me after my last (frustrating) ride that while I am constantly praising and petting Steen when we do ground-work, while I ride he only gets a lot of verbal "good boys." I think a lot of his "misbehavior" stems from the fact that I am not as good at setting small, clear goals for us while I ride and then reaching them, letting him know he reached them, and giving him praise.

With our separate goals, Brian and I started riding and I must say it was a great session. Cal was still inclined to veer towards Steen whenever the two came near to each other, but Brian was effective with his legs and both patient and consistent with her, and she responded by losing a lot of her resistance. Steen got the idea that we were trotting down the fence to a particular fence-post, then stopping and standing. When he did these things, I'd give him lots of praise and pets on his neck and he'd get that "proud of himself" air I see when we do groundwork. He also then lost his resistance to venturing lower down in the pasture and his curiosity and willingness to explore began to emerge again. The four of us had one glorious lope together up the big hill and to the top of the riding area, and Steen ran nicely and energetically, then calmed right down and dropped his head and went back to walking without fuss.

So, once again I must remind myself that it really is always the rider. Cal was resisting because she was confused and frustrated by cues that made no sense to her. Steen was resisting because he didn't see the point and I was thinking too much about large, abstract goals like "have a good ride" instead of small ones that he could understand and work towards, too. Brian and I both got off feeling wonderful, surrounded by pretty fall colors and sunlight.

We went back into the barn and Cathi commented that Steen's looking great. He's keeping his weight on and adding muscle even though the herd is now locked out of the large pasture. I think the key to this winter will be keeping him exercising so he stays hungry enough to eat the pasture hay that is always available even though he's not as excited about it as he is for fresh grass.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I noticed the "praise when riding" thing works really well with Tranikla too. Trekker just slams on the brakes when you do anything unusual (talk, touch his shoulders, lean to far in any direction...).

    Grats on getting a good ride in.

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