More weather, and mayhem.
It's been an interesting couple of weeks.The very cold spell threw up a few problems in the form of horses going nuts and destroying fences. Most of this seems to have been due to a change in the behaviour of the coyotes, coupled with moving the horses to a new grazing cell, which turned out the be Rabbit Central (and therefore Coyote Central) after the horses had destroyed the fence of the grazing cell we intended to keep them in until the end of December. We think that the extreme weather caused the coyotes to run in a big pack all together, and with all the rabbits it probably just got too frenetic for the horses, who bailed out of there without bothering to look for the open gate. All in all, we lost the best part of 1/2 mile of temporary fences, and some horses had to be kept in because of minor injuries while the rest got fed on the track for a few days. We now know that plastic poly posts don't cope well with extreme cold. They just shattered, so we will try replacing them with some new fiberglass step ins. Oh, yes. We're still learning....
After the incredibly cold spell we moved to a warm spell. They say today was the end of that - and it was spectacular. Around 57F. Somewhere in there we also had a morning of incredible fog that lifted to leave the most beautiful frost. I took a few picture while still in clogs and bathrobe. Thank goodness nobody was taking pictures of me!
So once the weather warmed up I was keen to play and ride. I had a great session with Hunter in which we cracked not only 7 Games outside the trailer, but also managed to get the front feet consistently on a low pedestal. And he accepted me playing helecopter Friendly Games with the rope, too!! For some reason, the key to that seemed to be to do it first with the Carrot Stick and string. I find this a much easier tool to helecopter, and perhaps I was too awkward with the 22' line. If you've done this, you'll know that the line gets twisted after a number of revolutions, which means you need to pause and/or reverse directions. Also, I was able to be a little further away from him with the stick. Anyway, it was easy to transfer his confidence to the rope, once we had it with the stick.
We also worked on some circles on the 22' line for the first time. This seemed to bring out some nervousness about the herd being far away. Interesting, how moving the feet faster brings up his emotions, but then he doesn't turn into a horse who doesn't want to stop or disengage. He tends to stop before I ask. I ended up getting fairly firm to get 4 laps of trot, even though the trot he offered was fast and tense, he didn't maintain it.
When it was Bruce's turn for a ride the other day, I thought I'd bring Iona along on line. I warmed them up a little in the roundpen. That went okay, and I didn't stay there too long. Then I hopped on Bruce and tried to do a few things with Iona in the arena. It wasn't great, but I decided I would just head out anyway. We had to go through a couple of awkward gates to get out to the pasture where I intended to ride. I was leading the two of them, and even getting through the gates and to the mounting block was a hassle. Iona kept giving me these meaningful looks. I got on the mounting block and they just would not cooperate. Finally, I got the message. Neither one of them wanted to do this. And, you know, I decided to take their advice. I popped Iona back out on the track and Bruce and I had a nice little ride. Even my ponies know that they need prior and proper preparation!
With the great weather, I especially wanted to set time aside to do things with Iona. She is still my closest partner, by far, and I love spending time with her. I have also been feeling very keen to progress with my Levels, recently, so I need to put in the time. As well as doing tasks and Patterns and things, we have been just going out riding around, checking fences and doing Point to Point, lots of transitions and stuff. I'm not sure that I am being particular enough, though, with myself or Iona. We are an undisciplined pair! However, although these rides usually start off with her saying "No way!" an awful lot, they usually finish much more harmoniously, so I must be doing something right. I think we are both getting bored just riding around the farm, but as a lot of the stuff at the start of the ride is herdbound behaviour, I don't know that heading down the road would be a great idea. Iona on roads is never that great an idea anyway! Come March, we are supposed to be getting riding access to our neighbour's zillion acre pasture. That will brighten things up for us!
Thursday I was well caught up on fence repairs and other jobs, so I had it set aside for a full day with Iona. I spent a lot of time the night before thinking about lightness and how important it is, and also about not getting too direct line about things, so I was really looking forward to our day. I was thinking about the importance of causing something to be the horse's idea vs causing the horse to just do something. However, while I was riding Bruce in with the herd in the morning something spooked him without warning (well, I didn't see the warnng LOL!) and I fell off. No big deal, I'm fine, but I twisted my knee a bit so it really hurt for a minute and I didn't stand straight back up. Just knelt on all fours saying a few choice words. To be fair, Bruce stopped dead, which was great, and stood there looking puzzled. Iona came straight over to see what was wrong and told the rest of the herd, and the darn dog who was jumping all over me, to stay back! She then wanted to walk with me, because I was limping a bit. Cash and Dakota looked at me the rest of the week like "Yeah, I was lame last week. It sucks."
We did manage to spend the whole afternoon together, although I have to say I enjoyed the ridden portion most! It was easier on my knee. That little clipper simulation task is one I have been avoiding, but I took one of Mark's electric shavers, and tried to play Friendly Game with it. Typical Iona, she was scared of it before I even turned it on. For once I decided not to come on too strong, so I turned it on and put in on the barrel where I lay my grooming box, and we played squeeze game and Almost-Touch-It (that's a new Pattern I invented) and finished on a good note. Hooray for the new not-so-direct-line me!
We went on out to the playground to work on our Figure 8s. I decided to change from our usual blocks of wood to a couple of barrels on their sides. Well, apparantly the barrels were for jumping! So that was interesting. And then she offered sideways over them. And then she offered to RUN AWAY!! I just hung in there, and eventually she managed to channel some of her silliness into actually doing Figure 8s with some reasonable drop to trot lead changes. We tried a little Weave, but I think I need to stop doing these two tasks back to back, as it always leads to her going "Sheesh! Not again!"
My next plan was Follow the Rail. I opted for the bareback pad, as she can get really tense and punchy sometimes when we are totally bareback, and stirrups were a no-no because of the knee. I have watched this segment on the Patterns DVD over and over. There is so much in it! To my amazement, we had an elegant and exuberant session. When did Iona decide that she can follow a rail without a million corrections? Why wasn't I told? It was fab! But we need to work on our right leads.... We finished up with a few Liberty tasks and both smiling.
In the bit
Fuelled by my success on Thursday, I decided to try riding in a bit on Sunday. Could I really be light enough? Would it really aid communication in some magical way? Only one way to find out. I chose the Jeremiah Watt snaffle and slobber straps with mecate reins. I haven't got my cradle bit organised onto a bridle yet. Iona wasn't overjoyed when she saw me get it out, but kind of relented and stuck her head through the reins. (Hmmm...was that want or make?) Our plan was simple. I had a backpack with lunch in it. We would ride along the path across the pasture, through the gate onto the track, then all the way around the track to where Mark was cutting wood. I'd leave the tack in his car, Iona could go back to her buddies, Mark and I would eat our sandwiches and then I'd help him for the afternoon. On the way, we'd do simple familiar things like transitions, direct and indirect rein turns, etc.
How'd it go? As usual, there was some complaining about going away from the herd. Lot's of refusing, a bit of bucking, blah, blah, blah. I was pleased to note that I am now able to deal with this stuff and stay out of her mouth, and we even had a nice canter once the tantrum was over. Got through the gate and onto the track. Now we were going toward the herd, so life was good. Lots of transitions, and most of them were really good. Except backup. She seemed to resent the bit. I was careful to use phases and only one rein at a time. It got a little better, but I wasn't impressed. In the hackamore her backup is usually great.
Of course once we passed the herd, she got sticky again. However, not as bad as I expected her to until we got up near Coyote Central. I decided to get off and walk for a bit, as I felt she was trying. Mounted up again and things went okay. Once or twice she thought about turning around. She can be very fast at this, and I know I caught her a little sharply with that bit. Interestingly, that kind of knocked that idea on the head. I saw her look of surprise. (And I didn't catch her that hard, you know, just wasn't as light as I would have liked.) That really set me thinking, though. I occasionally hear Linda Parelli mentioning the value of the snaffle bit for control. I have never liked that concept. Isn't this mechanics and maybe even intimidation? But then maybe it's better than a thousand pulling matches with the hackamore.
Anyway, I have decided to ride in the JW snaffle more often. Then once I can really see how it's working, I will change to the Cradle, and maybe I will be able to make some meaningful comparison. I will also keep using the hackamore about half the time. Just avoiding the questions is silly. I have no real experience to base my feeling on until I go out and seek the experience.
The day after I fell off Bruce, Mark took pity on me and drove me out to bring the horses out of the night grazing. That was great, but actually just upset the routine from the horses' point of view. Some of them never made it to the yard and I ended up taking feed buckets out in the truck and hunting them down. So I decided to get back to the routine. I also noticed that Bruce was avoiding me and looking quite down. Call me anthropomorphic, but that's sure what it looked like. I got them outof the grazing cell and stood on the mounting block. Usually, Bruce will come over and put his nose in the halter if I hold it out, but he just looked away and kept walking. No, I'd better not. I dropped you last time. But Iona walked straight over and lined up for me to hop on. Wow! The next day, I made a point of putting the halter on Bruce and riding him with lots of reassurance. He was sooo careful, especially when we got to the place where he had shied the other day. Call me anthropomorphic, but that's sure what it looked like to me!