What a fine day I had today! The weather was cool and breezy, so perfect for being active. I decided to have a real horsey kind of day. Since I got a reasonably early start I decided to do tail grooming. This is a major undertaking with Fells, but we got through it with lots of patience and spray stuff.
Poor Iona is covered in mosquito bites. I went out yesterday evening just to see what they were up to, and really to watch them eating, as I wanted to make sure that I was right that they aren't eating bindweed. Happily they seem to be pushing it out of the way to get at the grass, and leaving it alone. However, my neighbor is irrigating, and there wasn't much wind, so the flies and mosquitos were really bothering them. I brought them in and threw together some home-made fly repellent. I was obviously too late, as this morning Iona was covered in lumps in all the tenderest places. She is just one of those horses that insects love to bite. Bruce had a couple of bumps, but nothing dramatic.
I gave them a bit of hay while I grabbed a sandwich, then decided to put a few obstacles in the arena. I managed to drag a good sized log in, and roll a piece of tree trunk in that is big enough for a front feet pedestal. A half sheet of plywood is doing duty as a "tarp". (then, of course, minutes later I found an old tarp.) I also put some pieces of rope up over the gate openings. It all looks frightfull and I will NOT be posting pictures. I'm still hauling cow chips out, too. Did two more wheelbarrows full today. However, I know where I'm going with it, and in the meantime we can use it.
By the time I'd done all this I figured they would appreciate a bite to eat, so I grazed them on line for a little while, let them work on the weeds around the house and driveway a bit. They thought that was an excellent idea. Then we took a walk to the gate, where I re-bungied the trash bin to the gate where it had blown over.
So Bruce and I had a little play session in the arena. He was thrilled to have obtacles. Of course he made a beeline for the pedestal ASAP, but also jumped the log much more often than was actually required, stomped on the plywood at every opportunity. He really makes you feel like putting up obstacles is worth the bother!
We worked on some porcupine game stuff, where I am really asking for some pretty basic yields, but now refining them to quite a high level of precision. I am still having some problems simply getting him to pay attention, He tends to assume that I am asking him the thing that he got a treat for last, rather than paying attention to the task at hand. Sometimes I think treats are almost a distraction for him, and I need to think about better ways to make them meaningful.
His circles were a bit lacklustre, and maybe I am letting the latest Savvy Club DVD with Linda and the LB horse confuse me a little. I have certainly found the stuff about being light and waiting helpful with Iona, but it didn't seem to be working for Bruce's circles. Probably what worked more was variety. Lots of transitions and especially travelling circles.
We also had a little session of pushing the ball around. He lost a bit of confidence with that this winter, as the ball we had was giving him static shocks, which he finds vvvverrrry scarrrrry! So we mixed it up with me pushing the ball and him just following. But he nosed it around a little, and I quit on that.
While I played with Bruce, I actually put Iona back out onto the track. I knew she would just hang around near where we were, and I was right. They really need to be a bit more independent of one another. They have been like Siamese twins ever since their experience of being shipped over, which included a period where they were seperated for a couple of weeks.
So I swapped them over, brought Iona in and saddled her up. I really felt like riding, so just did a quick warm-up and pre-flight checks. She couldn't see Bruce as the arena fence is so high. However, I got her listening to me pretty well. We went out into the pasture. Now she could see Bruce, but OMG! there were two kids riding their bikes down our road. I now had two 15hh black giraffes. Iona now wanted to do her "cow chasing" routine and just run full pelt toward them. I wasn't comfortable with that and hopped off. We had a little discussion about this from the ground and then I felt like riding again. We didn't do a lot, but it was really nice to be riding her, and I hope I managed to keep things nice and light for her most of the time. She was a bit bracey going away from Bruce.
So, got her untacked and turned out. Then I decided I would spend some time picking up glass and wire in the "visitors" yard. I am working my way across this space slowly. I walk (sometimes get down and crawl) a section and pick up what I can see, then I rake the same section, then walk it again. It is pretty effective, although of course the wind reveals a few more bits later.
While I was sitting on the ground filling my pail with these little treasures, Bruce and Iona came cantering along the track headed for somewhere. When I was finished, I realised that they had gone back to the point on the track that was near where we had been grazing along the driveway in hand earlier. They haven't been over there in ages. Had they sort of forgotten about that part of the track? They were finding a lot to eat there, and were still there when I got dark. It's well away from the irrigated area, too, so probably not so many bugs.
Sometimes it seems like the track is still almost too big for them to take in, mentally. Almost as if they appreciate a bit of guidance as to where they might go. Otherwise they just go where they went the day before. I'm sure it will make more sense, and that they will move better when the circle joins up, too. What a learning experience for all of us!