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!