Friday, November 27, 2009

New Kids in Town

Well, it's been an interesting week. Mainly thinking about herd behaviour and how Petra's horses are integrating into the herd. Sunday, I put them in the playground. There is some fenceline in common with the track fence, though, and JB and Bruce decided to do some dominance games. These involved a lot of rearing on JB's part and striking from Bruce. I decided that somebody was likely to get hurt by getting caught in the fence, so I just put Bruce in the playground and told them to get on with it. Not what I had intended, but Bruce isn't particularly aggressive, so I figured that it would work, and it did. He and JB did a lot of airs above the ground and posturing and squealing, but I don't think they even made contact. I could not have determined a winner in this game, but it must have been Bruce because he was soon eating the hay that I had put out for Cash and JB. Once he found the hay he had no further interest in them. Why am I not surprised.... 

Things were soon so quiet that I decided to just put the rest of the herd in with them, too. I had expected to wait a few days to do that, but the horses seemed to be telling me differently. That went fine, too, so after a couple more hours I just herded everybody out onto the track. At that point the new horses did lose a bit of confidence and thought it might be a racetrack! They did a very impressive 3/4 mile sprint, then came back. However, except for breaking the playground gate, trying to go back in, they settled down pretty quickly.

The herd quickly pair off along familiar lines

Now grazing closer together

By this time the afternoon had worn on, and I decided that if I wanted to leave them out with the herd for the night, then Cash and JB probably needed a bit or a tour. I wanted to ride Iona, anyway, so I saddled her up and headed out. Cash and JB decided to overtake us, and the rest of the herd came, too. We went at a very steady pace, with Bruce eventually bringing up the rear. I think he wanted to keep track of everybody.

Iona was a real star and led most of the way, with "The Browns" occasionally forging ahead, then falling behind us again. We went so slowly that I realised that we wouldn't make it all the way around before dark, so Iona and I opened the grazing cell gate and got everybody in. She was very patient, going in and out of the gate several times to show Cash and JB where the gate is. She really surprised me by next offering to leave the herd and take me back to the yard. Of course after I untacked her and put her back on the track she had an "Oh, my god! How do I get back to my buddies?" moment. But I managed to get her going in the right direction and she calmly headed back out to them.  

View from Iona's back, taking the herd out

Monday dawned very windy. That's my least favourite kind of weather. I could see all six horses moving around in the grazing cell from the house, and I wasn't in any hurry to go out there and deal with them. I knew that they wouldn't come in. Strangely, when the weather is nice, sometimes they come in on their own, but when it's unpleasant, they are often too spooky to make the trip. Oh, well. Eventually I went out and found that although they were all in the grazing cell. the fence was down. I don't know whether it was broken by horses or deer. The Browns were high as kites, and although they were fine with me touching them around the yard, there was no way in a 10 acre paddock. I got the other four organised and The Browns made their own way over the downed electric strand and found their way to the yard looking like a couple of Seabiscuit wannabees. I got them all fed and although the weather was still rough, everybody settled down and enjoyed the rest of their day. (Except me. I mended fences in the wind...)

Enjoying a windy Monday

Tuesday I got everyone in with less hassle. The Browns decided that we should all take the eastern route to the yard, whereas we have been taking the slightly shorter western one. Either way, it's a little over a mile. I rode Bruce. However, everyone was on their toes because we saw some deer. I wasn't sure of Bruce and hopped off. Waste of time, he was only mildly interested in them, so I got back on at the next spot where I could. Rode quite aways, then got off again because I was afraid Molly (the pup) would run over to the neighbours' when we got close to their house. It worked out well, because I was able to take a bunch of photos, while I worked out how the herd hierarchy stood.

Here they come up the drive, travelling in their pairs, and it turns out, by order of dominance.

Iona is first to the water, though. Bruce might be the boss, but she is always the thirstiest!

Here he comes!

Now The Browns aren't so sure, and Hunter and Dakota take their chance.

And Cash and JB drink last.

The drinking order led me to believe that Cash and JB were still at the bottom of the heap. This was the first day I would feed them all together and I'm glad I paid attention. When I came out with the feed I gave the Fells theirs and Hunter and Dakota hung back in a very obvious way, so I went ahead and fed The Browns. That worked great, and that's the way it has remained.

I'm pretty proud of this picture. Six horses eating together harmoniously on the first attempt!

On Thursday I had a really nice ride on Bruce. I think all the passenger lessons when I'm bringing the herd in have had a good effect on his morale and on our relationship. (In fact, he seems a little miffed if I don't ride him in in the mornings now.) I rode him all the way around the track, checking fences and just generally having fun. The herd followed us some of the time. I'm pretty sure he thought we were going to the grazing cell, and that probably helped his motivation. We even had some little canters without an arguement. When we got to the grazing gate I though I would see if I could ride him past, and it was pretty easy, so we just kept going. Then there was a combine working just on the other side of the fence, and he was great about that, too. I felt really happy all evening, thinking of what a nice ride we had. It's been a long time coming.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cash and JB Arrive

Brrrrr. It was cold this morning. I went out pretty early to get the herd in, as John and Sara were coming to trim feet today. I needed to be organised, as I was also expecting the arrival of Petra and Linda with their horses. I thought that I would be clever and lead both Bruce and Hunter in with halters and ropes. Wrong! This meant that the herd weren't walking in their "proper" order, and they all took great exception to this. So that was interesting.  I decided not to mess with that! They obviously have their own political system, and who am I to meddle? So I took Hunter's halter off, and everybody followed me and Bruce quite calmly.

Cash, Petra and JB

Petra is now a 1* Parelli Professional Instructor. She has taken a job in Pagosa Springs for the winter, working in the Parelli office, and she knows that with the high mountain weather and short days she won't have time to play with her horses, so she has decided to put them here for a few months.

Lucky me! They are lovely characters and very easy to handle so far, as I would expect. One of the duties Petra asked me to perform over the first week is to put some homeopathic spray stuff under their tails twice a day. "Sure," I said - hoping for the best. But when I went out to do it this evening, it was totally easy. I didn't even need halters. Just a quick friendly game, find the "up button", a quick spray and we were done.

So I had a very busy yard for a couple of hours this morning. Fells tied to the posts, Petra's horses in the big visitors' pen, Ducky in the small one, Dakota and Hunter in the round pen at the back, and John and Sara trimming while horses got unloaded and people got organised. The great thing was, that with all this going on, there were hardly any high heads, no whinnying or running up and down, just a lot of relaxed horses and people. Hunter even stood ground tied while Sara trimmed him. It really helped to confirm in my mind that I want to stick to my intention to.make this a place for PNH students and their horses, exclusively. Of course that doesn't guarantee that it will always be so peaceful, but it does tend to be the norm.

I am very pleased to have Cash (a little bay mare) and JB (a really cool Morgan gelding) coming into the herd for awhile. Even though it is winter, we are not short of grass, so perhaps it will help the Fells' waistlines a little. I am also glad to be helping Petra out with this. She has been a very dedicated PNH student for many years, and she has worked very hard to realise her dream of becoming and instructor. By the way - if you want to check out her website, here's the link:

It will be interesting introducing Cash and JB into the herd. If today's vibe is anything to go by, it should go very smoothly. Apparantly Cash is pretty dominant. So is Iona,so that could be interesting, but both of them have experience in larger herds, so I think they will work out an agreement. I guess that I would be a little shocked if Iona got moved down from her 2nd In Command status, but time will tell. I will keep you updated here! 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Have a Plan

So - I've been thinking about a skeleton for a trailer loading program, and what's important. Confidence! General confidence, the confidence to stay straight, to back out, to be tied if necessary, to stand relaxed when partitions and doors get swung, and when people or other horses enter and leave. That's all. Simple, but not necessarily easy. Hehe. And I figure that if I want to travel them loose, being able to do everything at Liberty would be good, too.

This is what I've come up with:

- 7 Games outside the trailer OL (On Line) Every OL section will include a section on tying preparation. That will include me going to the places and doing the things that I would normally do to tie the horse, plus running the rope through something and playing with a live feel on the rope.

- 7 Games outside L (at Liberty)

- Loading OL

- Loading L

- 7 Games inside the trailer OL

- 7 Games inside the trailer L 

- Loading without turning OL (I will probably use a row of metal barrels up one side of the trailer for this. First in the back section only, with the partition shut, then with the barrels moved to the front section.) 

- Loading without turning L

- Loading straight OL (No barrels now, just communication!)

- Loading straight L

- Loading and:  1 ground tying; 2  having halter removed and standing; 3 being tied.

- Loading two horses OL

- Loading two horses L

It's quite a program, but I think it will be fun, and really beneficial. too. I'm sure I will learn a lot along the way! I'm really grateful that we have this nice big solid stock trailer to play with.

Today's Session with Iona
We had a really nice time together today. We started off playing with some S Patterns and Zone 5 Driving on the way out  to  a spot where two paths meet at right angles, each with a small ditch along it. This is a fun place to do circles, with a little natural obstacle of the ditches. Iona had her own games in mind, like stopping and eating a lot and/or running off. Ha Ha! I had a 45' line so plenty of drift. So we spent awhile playing a combination of if-you-look-out-on-the-circle-I-will-disengage-you and wipe-that-look-off-your-face! This resulted in (finally) quite an exuberant horse! Cantering around throwing bucks of joy and having great draw. More and more I realise that the eating and running off is play - I just need to encourage more positive games.

As it was pretty windy we then headed for the shelter of the little back arena, where we played with Figure 8 and Weave patterns. Thanks to the good circle warm-up these went much better today! We are back to getting simple changes on the Figure 8 and not acting like a pony who has never done a Weave in her life.

On to the trailer. For a horse who was acting pretty upset at her last trailer session, Iona was pretty keen to get in there today. Of course I wasn't asking her to! "Hey, what are you doing? Don't go in there, we're supposed to be playing outside!" So we did all 7 Games no problem - the hardest was getting her to notice the treats I had hidden for Touch It.

Back in the arena I mounted up for some Freestyle. I have a bunch of 5 gallon pails with lids and a couple of stones in each to stop them blowing away. I put one out to circle, and I'm glad I decided to make some marks in the sand with my heel to sort of help us find the circle. I think it really helped. She was a little distracted by the herd moving around nearby, but they went fairly well. We also did some sideways and a little jumping. I didn't have a log big enough, so we jumped a row of pails laid on their sides. Maybe next time I'll set them upright if I'm feeling brave. LOL!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trailer Woes

Spent most of today trying to get Bruce and Iona comfortable with the trailer. My agenda was to have them both relaxed in the front section, let them eat hay awhile, congratulate myself on my fabulous horsemanship, etc. etc.

What really happened is that Iona did pretty well, confidence wise, but I didn't have a clear enough plan as to how I was going to keep her straight while I put Bruce in. The trailer interior is about 16' long, with a swinging partition that divides it into a front and back section. My intention was to put the Fells in the front section and the horses in the rear. I thought I would just get one in and relaxed, tie to bars at front, load 2nd one, close partition and go have lunch. Wrong.

The Dreaded Stock Trailer!!

There's plenty of room to turn around in there. They both know that. Therefore, when I tie one (well, only dallied the rope so far!) they get worried because they can't turn. And although I did only dally the rope, it was enough to give each of them a wee fright. (Yes, that's right - I made the mistake with one, and repeated it with the other, just to confirm my findings. Doh!)

Bruce's confidence was wobbly, at best, anyway, so now he thinks the trailer is a deathtrap. Iona is much more pragmatic about the whole thing. "If I have to do it, okay. Let's see whether I have to." Bruce even put in a running away performance in three acts. Oh, well. That provided one of the better laughs of the afternoon, when on one occasion after chasing him for a bit, I managed to draw him back toward me, and when I saw him following me I ran down the drive with him chasing me.

I ended on the best note I could, but felt very down this evening. I knew that I had been too direct line. Somehow I couldn't seem to get my head around using this type of trailer and just wanted the comfort of my old two horse straight load. What I began to realise is that to use this trailer with excellence, it's really got to be about loading at liberty. Especially since it's a great trailer for allowing them to travel loose. Then I felt frustrated because I need to be ready to take them all on a trip by Friday morning.

I have loaded them at liberty in the past, both into a straight load and a slant. In the end I decided that I am likely to get too tense and too direct line with this time frame, so I did what I considered to be the Savvy thing and rang the dentist. He said that he is happy to arrange to come to us in the next few weeks, so that will allow me the chance to do this for them rather than to them! It will also allow me to do something in the next 48 hours other than trailer load. Exciting things like putting up a fence and going to the laundromat. Now I just need the self discipline to continue with it.

Monday, November 16, 2009


The herd are near the grazing cell gate when I go out to bring them in. The two Fells lying down. We do greetings and treats. It's cold. Tatters of yesterdays snow still lying around.

Everybody out and the gate shut I get on Iona. Carrot stick and string, halter and finesse reins. Bruce is the leader and he kindly waits until Iona and I are set to go. There is no real discussion, we just all leave. Bruce, Iona and me, Hunter, then Dakota. That's the usual travel order these days, same as the dominance order. Bruce doesn't go very fast. He's careful. Checks everything - even going from one side of the track to the other sometimes to see what's behind brush. It must be nice to follow him, if you're a scared pony. He takes his job seriously.

We trundle along. I never touch my reins or use the stick or my legs. It's like some sort of royal procession. Slow and dignified. I know if I was walking we would go a lot faster, but probably less dignified. Everybody stays calm and I concentrate on fluidity, on staying out of 'Ony's way.

Bruce stops to sniff noses with Molly, the pup. When we all stop I see she is wondering what to do about it. I try to figure out whether she is trying to herd us yet, then laugh at myself for thinking in terms of "us". Guess I'm a horse now!

We go on and come to an area that's slippery. It's always Iona's back feet that slide out behind her because she's on the forehand. I try to think of ways to shift my position to encourage something else, but it's not effective and I don't feel like using my reins. Maybe tomorrow....

At the water tank I hop off. There's half an inch of ice. The Fells push it under with their noses and try to slurp. Iona gets impatient and breaks the ice with her hoof. Job done.

Hunter - 1st trailer loading session
Thought I'd do a bit of this with each horse this week, as on Friday we have a trailer trip to the dentist for the whole herd. He was high headed even as I led him in. I'm trying to think what was bothering him - maybe some new tarps on haystacks? I led him in a circle each way around it. Had to defend my space a little, and quite a lot of snorting going on. I managed to sneak a treat onto a fender and then played Touch It. He loves that, and it gave him something to focus on. He munched the treat then came to ask me for another one. He can do that and still be really on his toes, which he was. Food motivated even while he's high. I snuck into the trailer and put one on the floor about a foot from the edge for later. 

We played a bit of squeeze between me and the open door, and he chose to dash into the trailer, turn around and dash out again. Whatever! It seemed like he hardly even knew where he was. Next time he tried that I blocked him with a rope wiggle and we got a better squeeze game going. He was pretty respectful of my space and I could stand really close. Asked him to touch the trailer opening this time and he found the treat. Score!! So I offered him a squeeze in. He did the dash in and out thing again a couple of times. I would have taken just zone 1! Maybe I was shouting with my ask. I tried not to, and there was no stopping him once he headed in. I still felt that he wasn't thinking much about where he was in physical space. I think this is how he is always getting hurt. (OMG maybe he's a candidate for TTeam! That's supposed to tell a horse where his body parts are, etc.)

I began to suspect that he is afraid of coming out, particularly backing out. In fact I think that would be a huge challenge for him right now. Thank goodness it's a stock trailer! Hunter's way of dealing with things he's scared of seems to be to push through and get it over with, so I think that's what he was doing. Finally, a couple of times I managed to get him stopped with just his front feet on, then back him off. It wasn't very straight, but he managed to get them down fairly gracefully. Cool!

Later when we got all four feet in again I managed to ask him to stand inside and relax. Even though he had already turned around, I felt that was big progress. I rubbed him and gave him a treat and he came off much slower and more aware. That seemed like a good place to quit for the day. We do need more preparation, but I don't think he will have a problem, as long as the rest of the herd is travelling, too. Even if he doesn't learn to back off this week, we will get there.

Mark and I have spent a lot of time recently reviewing old Savvy Club DVDs, and we've been enjoying the tour stop segments. Of course there's always trailer loading involved, and Pat is very "free form" about it. I think that this has helped me a lot with my own loading approach. In a way, maybe more so than all the "How to Trailer Load" stuff that Pat has produced. It has opened up my thinking a lot and helped me focus more on principles and less on technique. This PNH stuff really does work!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just Horsin' Around

We've had some great weather recently - cool, calm and dry - so it's been a busy week for horses. Last Saturday I decided to ride Iona around the track to check the fences. Thay need to be checked regularly, but too often it happens because there's already some kind of problem, we're in a hurry and go in the truck, just to get it done. However, I had plenty of time and wanted a ride, so we saddled up.

Well, she was like molasses in January. Just didn't want to get out of camp at all! Sigh! When she was younger she was like the horse that invented "barn sour" and occasionally she reverts. Like I said - plenty of time - so I just practised being polite and passively persistant in the proper position. * She seemed to have a lot of thresholds, or maybe they weren't, as they always seemed to involve looking back toward the herd. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. We finally made it to the first corner, so I let her eat a bit of grass. When I asked her to walk on she did a quick turn on the haunches and bolted for home. Panicked. Laughed at myself. Enjoyed the ride. Got her bent and turned her around. Headed for the corner. Repeat from * !

Once we got round the corner she was a different pony. A little high but very forward going. Of course that was probably about getting back to the herd, but obviously she had accepted that we were going the long way. That suited me, I like to go fast, so we had a nice ride. On our return, I decided to pay the other horses a visit so I rode her over to the loafing shed where they were. Cue lots of peeing and squealing from Iona and some very interested nickering from Bruce. Oh, I get it! She's in season. Doh!

On Tuesday, Mark's son Clay wanted a riding lesson. I also wanted to play with Hunter, so after we fed them we got halters to bring these two in. Iona has been difficult to catch about three times in the 12 years I've owned her. Tuesday was one of them. She knows Clay, and is used to different people being around. I can only think that she simply still didn't want to leave Bruce, and definitely didn't want to check any fences! So Clay got treated to a catchng game workshop that he could have probably done without. We got them in and groomed, and I showed Clay how to play the friendly game. He has a really nice touch with his rope and stick handling.

We were going to use a bareback pad, and since Hunter was there I decided to play some friendly game with him first. He wasn't the least bit bothered, even when I held the cinch tight and circled him around. That was very pleasing to see.

Clay's last riding experience, on a friend's ranch, wasn't good, so we just took it easy and concentrated on stuff like pushing passenger - mostly with Iona on line. Clay did really well, and we finished up with him having a little ride around in the yard and driveway.

I then went through some L2 groundwork with Hunter. He was feeling a little RB, but it was interesting to see how much it helped him when I was just persistent about asking him to focus on a task. "Move your feet if you have to, but in my pattern." He really did get hold of himself after awhile, and as I felt like continuing I decided to do some flank rope stuff with him. Happily, that didn't bring out any issues, he walked, trotted and cantered both ways unconcerned. Proving once again that whoever started him probably did know what they were doing, and that it's his tendency to get unconfident in new environments and to lack self confidence that needs work. I finished up by spending a lot of time kneeling on an upright barrel, playing friendly game from above, leaning over him, scratching his back with my boot, etc. I might have got on, but by this time he was getting a bit high headed and bug eyed about stuff that was going on with the herd out on the track, I was tired and I decided to call it a day.

Wednesday, Sara popped over and we took the two Fells out for a ride. I mistakenly thought that they would have a lot of go. Eventually they did, but it took us awhile to find it. Once we did, we had a blast. Sara was on Bruce, and she was really egging him on to get past Iona as we went for a gallop. He is pretty unfit, though, and when she said she felt him run out of gas, we pulled them up and let them eat. I wouldn't want to sour them on going fast! It was great to spend time with Sara, riding and catching up. She's been busy moving for ages, and hopefully we will start to see more of each other again. 

Friday I played with Bruce. We started with the trailer. I'll be concentrating on this with all the horses this week as we have a trip coming up next Friday. Bruce hasn't really been in the stock trailer. It's huge and roomy, but her wasn't very confident, and didn't even eat hay once he got in. I got all four feet in several times, and when he was willing to stand and let me pet him for awhile, I moved on to other things. We went to the playground and rode some Figure 8 patterns. We just walked, but I felt it was one of our better sessions, because he was looking for the pattern. Then we did some On Line things like Yo-yo jumping and zone 5 driving, stick to me and hold the tongue. He was really up for anything I asked him, so we both felt great at the end.

Yesterday I had a nice session with Iona. We also played with the trailer. Iona loves the stock trailer because it is so roomy. Load from the fender? No problem! However, there is a swinging divider that I wasn't sure she would like, so we played with that, but it just wasn't an issue. What a pro!

We are trying to build up our trot and canter laps. I decided to do that in the roundpen. It took a little while to get her feeling willing, but then she was great. I've recently retreated to just doing trot laps, then ending the session with some fun cantering stuff, in the hope that she will not look at cantering circles as such a chore. We are working on simple lead changes, and she got quite high and silly, which is just what I'm looking for. A playful pony! Circling with LBIs is a funny thing. You have to be so careful not to overdo it and bore them, yet when you do do it, it seems  to really help everything else. While we were there, we did a few little Liberty tasks. All fab!

We went on to work on mount from a fence. Of course I can mount from a fence, but I really have to discipline myself to do it with excellence rather than just throw myself on any old way. (If I want to start working with less experienced horses I really need to lose a few bad habits like that!) I'm also hoping that it will help up with Sideways Towards. Since the calf pens have pipe fencing, it's a great place for that task. So we were doing that, and then once I was on, doing a few carrot stick turns. These were incredibly light and responsive. And you should always watch it when a LBI is incredibly light and responsive... they may be up to something! There is a low wire near the calf pens, that you have to duck under. I had just been thinking that maybe we should do that, so we could go out into the yard where there is a little more room. But Iona doesn't really like going under it, so I changed my mind. Then she changed hers and made a beeline for it. I didn't get her bent in time, and also didn't duck in time, as she then squirted under it, so I have now had that experience! I picked myself up, feeling around on the ground for my emotional fitness. Iona was just standing there going "What happened?" I made a joke to her about not doing stuff like that, and thought "Oh, boy! I get to practise mounting from the fence again." Unfortunately I had lost a little trust, so we went into a corral to do our carrot stick turns at trot!

We finished up with trying a little Sideways Towards. This has never really gone well. Once in awhile I think we've got it, but it is gone at the next session. I had the bright idea to put her in a corner, so that she had less wrong options, and something seemed to click. We did it several times, so I'm feeling hopeful. Iona is so much fun and such a great little partner!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fun with my boys!

Had a blast yesterday with Bruce and Hunter! It's been awhile since I rode one of the Fells and played with the other, but I've been thinking that this might be a good fit for Hunter and Bruce. Poor Bruce always seems so bored by the idea of being ridden by himself. I'm sure it is boredom, but I expect there is a lack of confidence involved, too. That will need to be addressed, but in the meantime, I thought it might help him to have a job while being ridden, as well as the novelty of involving another horse. From Hunter's viewpoint, I hoped the experience would also be confidence giving and give me a chance to play from up above him.

I brought them both in and groomed them together. There was some hay in the pen, and Bruce was intent on a) eating it and b) NOT SHARING. I didnt make a big deal out of it, just spread it out so Hunter could get at it. Usually when I put Hunter in the pen before playing with him he is pretty unconfident about being in there by himself - less so if the herd happens to stay nearby. It didn't seem to make a big difference to him that Bruce was there. More a matter of "I want to be out there on the track because that's where I usually am, and this is not normal." How interesting.

Then it was time for lunch for humans, so we did that, and I sat wondering exactly how I was going to do this. I figured that I would take them both to the playground, let Hunter loose for awhile while I warmed up with Bruce and then somehow collect Hunter and go forward with the two of them. However, I decided to tack Bruce up in the yard, and once I had led the two of them into the playground it just seemed natural to play with both of them online together. This had it challenges, but it was great rope handling practise for me and worked out okay.

I walked around for ages just playing friendly game with the stick and string and letting them follow me, making left and right turns. Eventually this flowed into some Driving games and Yo-yos. The Circle Game was hilarious. Bruce was s-l-o-w and Hunter rather fast, and if I tried to chase Bruce a little Hunter got scared and panicked. However, I think this was a good friendly game for him as Bruce and I were so unbothered and I was laughing. He got better with it after awhile and they managed some half decent circles. During our walks and trots around I managed to set it up so that Hunter had to go over some low jumps. That was a first for him - I think he just trotted them, but it was a great start. We also did some squeezes with the fence.

So I took them over to the pedestal and got them arranged in the "ride and lead" position and hopped on Bruce. (Once I got him off the pedestal.) As I expected he was much more light and willing than usual when we started moving. I had been working on Hunter synchronising with him while I was still on the ground by putting Hunter's rope over Bruce's saddle and working him from the far side of Bruce, so things went really well. I started off with lots of turns to the inside, as this created a lot of disengagement for Hunter, which he needs. We rode around for awhile, just having fun. Tried some back-ups, but it's hard to keep Hunter straight - he wants to turn and face, so I'll need to think about that.

We started to manage a little trotting, and that also went well. Then I just sat on Bruce and played some games with Hunter. More Friendly with throwing the rope over his head, helecopters with the string, etc. then went through all the other games except Sideways. Then we rode around a bit more, doing more trotting and also more circles with Hunter on the outside, so he got to go fast and Bruce got to go slower, which was perfect for both of them. We finished up with some Squeeze and Sideways using the fence.

I had so muc fun, and I think both of them did too! After we were done and I had taken Hunter's halter off he came and put his head over Bruce's neck and my leg, just in front of the saddle, and stood there for awhile while I stroked him. Nice finish.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ride and Play

Moonrise at sunset. We had a beautiful full moon on Sunday night.

Sunday Linda visited to ride and play with Dakota. We had a great time together in the playground. I spent some time doing pedestal tasks with Iona -four feet on the pedestal, and hind feet only. She is very confident with these now, which is cool, as it's a pretty small pedestal and fairly high, too. Linda and Dakota played with the low pedestal and spent some time on their Figure 8s. They had those going great.

"How do I look?"

"It's a long way down." A moment later she stepped her front feet off and left her hind feet on, with one leg cocked. Mrs Cool!

"Do we really have to do this?"

"Yes, we do!"

They get it on!

Some of our other stuff didn't go so well. We are trying to increase the laps on the circle. Perhaps I just wasn't patient enough, as it didn't go well, so I didn't push it. I hopped on and tried some carrot stick riding and stuff - that also needs attention, as my direct "rein" seemed to be broken. That should have told be that sideways also wouldn't go well, but I had to try it anyway, and guess what? It didn't go well either!! Maybe Iona just wanted to go out for a trail ride. Linda was also on by that time, and having some trouble with straightness and impulsion, so we both did a bit of point to point and worked on snappy departures. We both got going better, and then headed out to ride on the track.

We had a great time, and did a lot of cantering. I can't believe how much Linda's confidence, balance and leadership have improved in just a few months. When we got up to the north side, four deer jumped the fence in front of us and then jumped the track fence and headed away across the pasture and then on into the neighbour's pasture. That could have been an "oh no!" moment, and the horses did do a bit of a dance, for sure, but we all kept it together and went on to enjoy the rest of the ride. Amazingly, they didn't damage the track fence! (This time.) It was kind of cool to see them, as I knew they were around, but hadn't managed to see them before.

Area where we saw the deer
I had to laugh and tell Linda that for the past few days I'd been moaning to Mark that I didn't have anybody to go out and ride fast with. Looks like that has changed! Hooray!!

Today's play
Today I went out to get Iona to play. The herd was in the wide area of the newly opened section, where they have been spending a lot of time lately. I called her and looked at her hindquarters a couple of times from a long way away, and was really pleased to see her head toward me. Brilliant! Since we had that, I decided to see whether we could make it at liberty. I stood by the nearest track gate, and she came over. Of course Bruce had to come too, just in case he missed something. The challenge then was to let Iona through the gate into the main pasture without Bruce getting through. However, I managed to position them with very subtle gestures - NO stick waving, etc.! - and worked her through. I always give the one who is left behind a treat at this point, if they have been cooperative, so Bruce scored.

We did the whole walk to the playground gate as stick-to-me, with only a couple of corrections. I stopped a few times and allowed her to eat grass, and threw in some trot and some back-up to keep it interesting. When we got to the playground I realised that I had forgotten some things I wanted, so I left her. When I came back, she was grazing on the far side of the playground, but when she saw me she headed straight over. I was really pleased. I then thought that she had zeroed in on her bareback pad, but when I picked up the pad to put it on she left, so I guess not!

We then had a little catching game at a slow walk. This was probably because Bruce decided to bring the herd in along the section of track beside the playground. So Iona thought she preferred to join them. However, they kept going around the buildings to the water tank where she couldn't see them. She got fairly agitated - albeit in slow motion - and pawed the ground and even halfheartedly tried to duck under the fence. She got shocked for her trouble. Ouch! I sent quite a lot of time doing a low key catching game with her before i got her back with me. She was then fine about being saddled.

I wanted to do some work on circles with obstacles. It took ages to get her willing to circle and then to do anything with the obstacles, however we finally got into it, she did some nice things and I quit that task. I wanted to improve her impulsion on the circle a little more before we moved on to Figure 8s, as I hoped to work on cantering them. Now I was trying to just do a few trot canter transitions on the circle, but she kept running back to the obstacles!! What a pony!

The Figure 8s were really hard work and we never cantered. I did my best to be firm, fair and friendly.... I found myself thinking that she is bored, rather than engaged, by the whole Patterns thing right now. I have tried very hard not to turn them into drills or be too repetitive, but I am obviously missing something, so I will need to think about this. Weave was also a drag.

We moved on to riding, and this went better. Did a little bit of carrot stick riding - mainly HQ disengagement which went very well. Then a little jumping, and she was actually getting enthusiastic. I enjoyed that, too, even though I felt I was bouncing around a little too much at the trot. We finished up by working on circles on a casual rein. It took a little patience, but they improved at the walk as I improved my ribs and hand position and she settled into the pattern. When she did well I went into a Bullseye to finish. We did a few of these, then played around with the Weave just for a little change. Came back to the circles at trot. She went into a very fast punchy trot that was uncomfortable to sit. It was kind of exciting and the circles were pretty good, but it was not easy to get her into a better gait. I tried some walk trot tranitions, which helped and she finally stretched down a little a couple of times, so I quit there. I didn't want to quit while she was doing her "machine gun" trot!

So not a great session, but it left me with plenty to think about. It's always great spending time with Iona. I am so lucky to have her. We just hung out together for a little while before I moved on to do some chores.