Saturday, October 17, 2009

Big Day

On Thursday, Brian got his wisdom teeth out. All four. So I hadn't been to the barn in a few days. However, he's recovering with remarkable speed, so we decided to load up and head out to visit our noble steeds this morning.

Harvest time has come, so the corn that made the strip a strip has been knocked down and carted away. This definitely changes the aspect of the place quite a bit.

Mini and the bare field.

We arrived and were at first encouraged by the fact that Cal didn't make any attempt to run away in the pasture. We got inside and she was more relaxed about standing while Brian groomed her, so we thought we were off to a good start. But once we got outside, things didn't go quite as well as we might have hoped. For one thing, all the harvesting equipment was working on the field just north of the one we ride next to, so there was lots of noise and heavy machinery.

Steen was curious about the litter of corn husks and cobs.

But we got on and got going and things went ok for a few minutes, but Cal just got increasingly unresponsive - not wanting to walk away from the barn or away from Steen. Brian (not feeling at the top of his game to begin with) was really having trouble with her. So, I hopped off Steen and got on Cal to see if I could figure out what was going on. She behaved no better for me at first. I had to use all my persuasive power to get her to walk away from where Brian waited with Steen. We rode around a bit, battling every time I let her go back towards home even a few steps and then tried to turn her away again. I also made the discovery that she would not turn right. Nope. Not doing it. But she was turning left pretty well, and trotting nicely once I could get her going. So, I gave her back to Brian with instructions not to worry about turning right for now, ride her with super long reins (being trained western pleasure, I think any contact on the mouth makes her unhappy) and if all he could manage was to turn circles to the left, turn circles to the left he should do.

He was getting understandably worn out, but he persevered and as I resumed some trotting up and down the strip with Steen, he had some success going in circles and even straight a few times. Eventually he even got some decent trotting out of her.

Steen was ok today. He seemed less combative in his attempts to turn and head back home. He'd still try, but he tried with less force and this allowed me to correct him more gently. I adopted the strategy of making him trot away from the barn until he started getting a little unhappy about it, and then I'd choose a fence-post about four or five in front of the one we were next to, focus on it, and make him go to that. Then I'd let him stop, rest, and walk back towards the barn. His reluctance to leave was making his trot quite nice, and since I was only letting him walk back, his eagerness made the walk quick, so his gaits felt good.

We rode for 55 minutes all told, and then called it a day.

My three pals.

We got them untacked and back in the pasture with ease, and I'm hoping Brian and Cal can continue to work out their vocabulary so these rides are less challenging for both of them.


  1. Yeah, if Cal is Western pleasure trained she probably views any contact with the bit as matter how incidental. You might consider seeing how she does with a hackmore, or even just a halter. I'm not sure it'd work for her, but if she neck reins well already steering shouldn't be an issue, and it'd keep Brian from accidentally putting pressure on her mouth.

    I need to do that whole wisdom teeth thing one of theses days too...

  2. Unfortunately she doesn't really neck rein without a curb, and she pretty much ignores a snaffle or milder forms of steering (insert western pleasure training methods rant here). And it's not our prerogative to retrain her. I definitely don't want to put Brian on a horse he can't stop, so if for now the sacrifice of turning right is the price we pay for brakes, I'll take it. I think she's just going to take a while to readjust to the idea of working again after so many months in the pasture and as Brian gets to know her better, hopefully she'll relax. It's not like he's been riding her with contact or anything close, but the western pleasure "ice-cream-cone" style of steering takes a little getting used to and as it's not something I have a lot of experience, I have to learn to advise him correctly, too.

  3. Ah, I wasn't sure. The whole bitless thing seems to work great with some horses (Tranikla, for example), but not with others. I did a little western pleasure way back in my 4H days, but never got into in enough to offer useful advice. Good luck. :)


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