Wednesday, March 12, 2014

First Rides

Today we headed out after work to see what our new guys were up to. They were easy to catch, and we took them indoors to do some groundwork.

Both Aiden and Oliver need some serious work on ground manners. They aren't reactive or spooky or violent, but they are pushy, and seem to completely forget about their human handler the moment something more interesting/scary/exciting appears. Oliver is worse than Aiden. It takes more pressure to get him to back off, and more frequent reminders to get him to give you enough space to be safe.

Since I'm still gimpy and injured, Brian worked with Oliver today. We need to stick these guys. I'm not sure how tall they are, but Oliver is big. He's burly as well as being a good height. Aiden is leaner, but also taller, I think. I'm pretty sure Aiden is taller than Steen.

Aiden is 7, and he's a Quarter Horse. Here's his pedigree.

Oliver is 8, and he's a Paint. Here's his pedigree.

I had a nice time working with Aiden. He's really sweet, and it didn't take too many blocks to get him to start respecting my space. Ten minutes into ground work, I had him walking off nicely in both directions, disengaging both ways, and backing with intermittent softness to the halter. Things we struggled with on the ground were disengaging the forehand and getting a soft feel or flex without getting the feet involved. But all in all, I was pleased with him. He seemed to want to engage with me, and he was trying to figure out what I wanted.

When I led him in from the pasture, he was on top of me the whole way. He stepped on the end of my mud boot immediately after I haltered him. I had to lead him with my elbow out to keep him from crowding me, and swirl the rope in my hand to keep him from barging ahead.

On the way back out, he walked quietly at my side with his head down. I only had to correct him once, for getting ahead when I stopped to open a gate.

I rode him, too. Tacking him up was no problem. He walked off when I mounted, and in general is not a huge fan of holding still when you're on his back, but on the whole he didn't do anything bad. He's rusty, and it shows, but there weren't any red flags.

We didn't accomplish anything spectacular. He was responsive (though not soft) to the bit. He was decent about yielding to legs. He wanted to dribble forward a lot, but he was good bending in both directions. He has this big floaty way of moving. I'm excited to see how he'll feel after he gains some strength and his topline fills in. We walked and trotted around for about half an hour, and although he was distracted at times, he was attentive at others.

Oliver does not seem like he's going to be quite as quick to settle in. He was less quick to take the point about crowding, and more restless during tacking and grooming. He seems to be a confident, inquisitive horse. He has a little too much of a belief that he calls the shots and can get into anything he pleases. It's clear he's not in the habit of respecting boundaries.

But, I will say a few things for both of them. 1) They're not spooky. The 4-wheeler was zipping around dragging the arena while we were doing groundwork, and there were tons of people and other horses and dogs and comings and goings which they both handled without so much as flinching. 2) They don't have any real hang-ups. They're not head-shy, you can touch them anywhere, they'll give you their feet, they take the pad, saddle, and bridle without comment. 3) They are relaxed about being ridden. They both need a lot of refinement, but overall, it's easier to be on their backs than on the ground next to them.

After the ride, Aiden was content to stand quietly. Oliver was a bit more restless, wanting to get into anything nearby. We spent a good long while working on their matted manes and tails. I am annoyed that I didn't think to take a picture of Aiden's tail before I started working on it. I didn't know a horse's tail could get like this. It was basically one solid dreadlock about three feet long. It seemed like several small animals had died in there and fused together. I spent about 45 minutes working my way through the matted hair. I don't really know how much of what's there is still attached and how much is going to just pull out as I go through it, but I figure it's worth the time and effort to avoid chopping off what amounts to pretty much his whole tail. It's going to be a multiple outing project, but I made some good progress today.

So, overall, a pretty good start. You can tell they are both still uncertain about their surroundings and what's going to be expected of them, but you have to give them props. They've done nothing but hang out in a pasture together for years, and today they took everything we threw at them with minimal anxiety.

Ride Time: 0:35
Horseback Hours YTD: 35:15

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