Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday at the Barn

We were super happy to wave goodbye to the work week and head for the barn today. We found the herd warm and bored, and everyone but Zoey seemed really happy to see us. I wove my way through the welcoming committee at the gate and went into the second pasture.

Zoey seems to have systematically dismissed her enthusiastic entourage. Even the pony seems over it as far as she's concerned. She was grazing alone.

I employed a different strategy catching Zoey. Instead of walking up to her, I circled around her and put some pressure on her haunch. I was hoping this would build on our lesson in the arena yesterday, but instead it pushed her forward. She walked into the other lot. I didn't up the pressure on her, but I followed her at a consistent distance, keeping with her enough so she couldn't relax and forget about me, but not pushing her enough to make her run away.

She went into the herd and wove around. I kept after her. No one else reacted to my presence, but a couple horses put their ears back at her. Finding no solace there, she exited the herd, and got stuck when my angle cut hers off. She stopped walking. I walked up to her and put the rope around her neck and she didn't try to leave.

Brian brought Steen and Laredo in, and we took the three of them to the tie rack. Zoe was the calmest I've seen her during grooming, and better with her feet than she's ever been for me. Signs of progress.

I took my tack to the indoor arena, and brought her in as well. I did some work on the line first, just moving her around, working on flexing and yielding the front and the hind. She is still pretty dismal at separating the different parts of her body, but it was better than yesterday, so that is something.

Then I brought the flag out. She didn't flinch at all the first time I touched her with it on her left side. She did some spazzy shakes at first on the right side (she's much more defensive on that side) but calmed down quickly. We worked on more yielding. Between every movement, I worked on softening her neck and bringing her head down. There was a lot of the commotion in the barn, but I was able to mostly keep her attention on me, and she started to show signs that she's figuring out this is a comfortable place.

Since she did so well with the groundwork, I upped the ante a bit for saddling. Up until now, we've just tried to help her get through saddling with as little stress as possible. Today I wanted to make it more challenging for her since this will ultimately lead to making it easier for her in the long run. I started with flipping the saddle pad on and off, which she took with no problem at all. So then I started using the saddle pad to drive her hind around, asking her step under away from the pressure. She got worried, but I just kept pushing gently until she was stepping away in a good rhythm. Then I switched back to asking her to stand still for the pad. We went back and forth between the two things, on both sides, and soon she started to figure moving is fine and standing is fine, but standing is easier.

Then came the saddle. Unfortunately, mostly due to my recent three week battle with the crazy muscle-devouring flu bug, I'm currently the weakest I've been in a long, long time. Although my saddle is relatively light for what it is, I do not have the height or strength to flip it on and off even a short horse seamlessly. So I kept with the same strategy I'd done with the pad. I approached with the saddle in a pretty sloppy manner, and asked her to move away from it. She was pretty worried about this at first, but again I kept at it until I got her moving smoothly. Then I asked her to stand still and she thought that sounded like a great idea. It took a few tries, but she soon was able to accept even a somewhat sloppy heaving of the saddle up onto her back.

She stood still while I mounted and even stayed still while I picked up my stirrups and settled in.

The ride was good. I just kept building on everything we worked on with groundwork. She was a little tired and far more relaxed than she's been with me on her back ever before.

I rode for just over half an hour. She was considerably less heavy on the forehand, and although at first she was having trouble stepping under, we eventually got this working very well. She is definitely a fast learner Her trot was way less chargey and unbalanced, and she was bending better in circles going both directions. She was also happy to stand still and chill out every time I asked.

I got off feeling pleased with the ride, and then she stepped away from me as I stepped down. So then I had to get on again, and she wasn't all that happy with that idea, so we had to do more work on moving away sometimes and standing still sometimes. I'm discovering with her that she's like Steen in that it's easy to put a bit too much pressure on her, but unlike Steen it's harder to tell where the line is because she is so stoic. The first few times I bent her and moved her hindquarters away, she was flinging herself around and staying quite tense. I'd let her stop, approach her side, and she'd move away. Finally I brought my energy down quite a bit, and waited until I got her stepping evenly with a nice bend in her neck before I asked her to stand again. That time when I put my foot in the stirrup she didn't budge. I got on and off three times and she didn't even twitch.

After riding Zoey, getting on Laredo felt like pulling on a favorite, broken in pair of jeans. Brian had been riding him in the indoor while I did Zoey work, so he was nicely warmed up. He's so much more light on his feet since Brian and I have agreed to focus on expecting more effort from him. We each had about one ride where we had to be pretty hard on him, and now he feels like a different horse. You can direct his feet with very little effort.

My work with Zoe left me rather worn out, so we didn't do a whole lot. I mostly worked on little detail stuff, and we had a couple of forays around into the trot and the lope. We worked on leg-yields, too. Historically, Laredo has had trouble with lateral work. His motor dies and he gets stuck and won't move off your leg. I employed my "you must try something when I ask you for this" mindset, and although it took a few reminders that a leg means move, pretty soon he was at least yielding off my leg at the walk and the trot while maintaining decent forward movement.

Then we loped some circles. He was a little convinced he didn't have a lot of energy for these at first, but I livened him up without too much trouble.

But of course he was really happy to stop. We'd lope a few laps in one direction, stop, go to the other way, stop, go the other way, etc.. The shot below was actually one of sloppiest stops (you can see he's only stopping on one hind leg). You can see at age (almost) 4 with barely a  year of consistent handling, he's light years better at this than my seasoned saddle horse. I suppose we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

While I was on Laredo, Brian had another really good ride on Steen. They seem to be clicking, and suddenly they're able to communicate on a whole new level. Steen doesn't seem to get nervous with Brian on his back the way he always has until quite recently. I think this says great things about both of them, and it's so neat to see Steen soften up and work really well with someone other than me.

Ride Time: 0:35
Ride Time: 0:35
Horseback Hours YTD: 60:00

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