Friday, August 31, 2012

Two Rides on Jak

It's amazing how time goes sometimes. Shortly after I last posted I thought I was having some bad allergies. It turned out I was actually sick. Just about the time I was starting to feel functional again, I hopped on a plane to Tucson, where I had a very good visit in spite of the fact Brian could not come with me.

While in Tucson, I not only spent time with my family but hung out with the family horses. Mom and I had three good sessions down at the barn. The first, we went out in the late afternoon/early evening (it's hot in Tucson this time of year) and I went into the corral to catch Jak. He looked at me, turned away, walked into the corner, and pointed his butt at me.

Jak and I have a pretty long history at this point which consists mostly of him convincing me he is about to die and me getting worried and not making him do anything. This trip, though, I was really hoping to work with him a bit using the techniques we've been applying to our horses for the last year or so. While this was not an auspicious start, I wasn't worried. I figured I'd just move him around a little until he decided to come to me.

Except this wasn't as easy as it sounded. At first, he wouldn't move. I tried moving him off with the lead rope and he just ignored me. So finally I had to go up by his shoulder and drive at his head to get him to move off and walk away.

It went that way for a while. He'd get away from me, stop, and I'd have to work on getting him to move again. At first I was moving my feet as much as he was. When I got him driving a little better, I made a point to stay more still, tossing my lead rope towards his hind feet when he slowed down. But the minutes dragged by and he just kept going. He wasn't thrilled with what we were doing, but he also wasn't looking for any release. I was prepared to stop driving and let him come to me the moment he showed an interest in doing so. But he never did.

I would have kept going for hours if necessary, but the sun went down. After about half an hour I could tell he was having trouble seeing (his eyesight isn't great). So I had to change tactics. I let him stop, walked up to him and looped the lead rope around his neck. I made him back up, then tried to pull him forward with just my body language. When that failed, I applied pressure to the rope until he came. Then we went back again, and tried forward again. We continued with this until he took one totally unassisted step in my direction, at which point I gave him lots of pets, dinner, and called it a day.

Our next day was better. He didn't try to escape me when I went into the pen, so I didn't chase him around again. Instead I put a rope halter on him and we went to the arena. Once out there, I showed Mom some groundwork (she was working with her horse, Rojo) and worked with Jak on the basics. After a while I switched to a snaffle and hopped on. Jak is used to being ridden in a curb, but a lot of years without much lateral work has left him a bit stiff in the neck and inclined to be dead to the bit. So I was curious to see what it would take to supple him back up.

After our groundwork the day before, I was surprised when Jak started breaking at the poll in response to light pressure almost immediately. He was also inclined to collect when backing, though I couldn't get the soft feel at the walk.

We poked around for about half an hour, working on super basic stuff. It was neat to feel another horse encountering this new stuff, and compare his responses to the other horses we're working with. Like Laredo, if I pulled hard I got nothing, but if I applied light pressure and waited, Jak would try to find an answer.

My final day with Jak went much like the second. He was still stiff laterally but even more supple vertically. I did more groundwork before mounting, spent a little more time coaching Mom and Rojo, and then rode for about 20 minutes. Mom even took some photos.

So, it's neat to see the changes that manifested in less than an hour of riding. I'm looking forward to working with Jak a bit more over the holidays.

Ride Time: 0:50
Horseback hours YTD: 103:55

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