MUD. After the demo we had more snow. First we had the wet, rainy kind, then the drier powdery kind. With the ground already pretty well saturated, we ended up with really terrible mud. Yech! Except for one day when it had just snowed, I haven't been able to do much with the ponies. That one day was glorious, though. The powder snow was fun to play in, so I took Bruce and Iona into the playground and took turns with them - first doing a task with one and then a task with the other. I ended up getting some nice Liberty Figure 8s with Iona, and some great clowning around from Bruce. (I was encouraging him to clown around. Sometimes it's better to ask the question he wants to hear!)
Oh, yes, and they've been helping with the chores. The first week of each month is Sand Clear week. Bruce would rather not eat this, and not only tips his own bucket over, but then tips everybody's bucket over checking to see if anybody didn't get some. Tiresome. So he has to be brought into a pen and fed from a special untippable bucket which fits in a tire, which sits on a piece of plywood, so that if her throws the food around I can pick it up. Apparantly Sand Clear tastes better this way, as he then eats it up!
I have been finding this such an extra hassle at feeding time. and more so with the mud, as it just means another potentially muddy rope. So I decided it was time to see whether we could do this at Liberty, since he can see what needs to happen. That was no problem, so I was very pleased with that bit of progress.
I've been putting a few hay nets out on the track the past month or so, to encourage the herd to move (I change their locations around each day). With the mud, there is no way I would want to go out in a vehicle, as even if it didn't get stuck it would tear the ground up. However, seven sections of hay is heavy, so since Bruce was in the yard every morning anyway, I decided to get him to carry them. He's done this before, so it's no big deal. The first day he decided to bolt for home with the nets, about halfway across the pasture. Something in the distance had worried him. I must have had those nets balanced just right, as not a single one fell off. I think this deflated him a little, so I easily got him to come to me and we set off again. The second day he realised that once we got to the feeding station he was going to get to stand and stuff himself with hay, so he became quite motivated. Iona's taken a turn on some days, too, now. This is one job they definitely see a purpose to!
Today, I couldn't stand it any longer. The weather has been quite nice (hence the mud) and I really needed a pony fix! So I grabbed Iona's halter and line, and a stick, and walked out to where the herd were loafing under some trees. We messed around a little - I squeezed her through a puddle and over a log, then decided to get on and just hang out. I figured that it would get boring pretty quick, but the herd decided to go for a walk, so I got a half mile or so ride. Just being a passenger. The mud is pretty slippery, so being a great passenger was the thing to focus on. Iona has a tendency to trail her hindquarters and then have them slide out behind her, so I experimented with what I could do to get her to step under herself more.
I also played with whether I could get her to do lateral flexion just by thinking about it. No reins or stick. Amazingly, she did it several times. I just kind of looked down at my foot and thought about what I would do with the reins to ask for this, if I was using them. It was enough for her to feel, obviously. Gee, do you think I'm probably "shouting" at her most of the time, if she responded to that?
I did pick up the reins when we went down a small muddy bank. I watched the other horses. Petra's horses ran down it, jumping a suspicious looking patch of snow. Bruce kinda slid down it sideways. All he needed was a snowboard - he's such a goofball! I didn't really want to try either method bareback, so I asked her to line up and "do it properly" which she did.
We got to a place where there was grass to pick at. It was very interesting being part of the herd. A couple of times I saw Hunter or JB suddenly do a snappy departure for a new location and I wondered what had prompted that. Observing more closely, I realised that their movements were totally directed by Bruce. His phase one was so subtle I had missed it. It was about the equivalant of a human raising an eyebrow without even looking up at the other party. Boy, his phase four must be pretty memorable if his phase one is that effective and light! And the others have to really be paying attention to him, even though they're searching for a nibble, to notice it. I guess they must consider his thoughts to be pretty interesting! I gotta think about how to be like that.
Eventually, everybody started to turn around. I knew they hadn't been up that way for awhile, and that once they got that unfamiliar ground behind them they would probably start galloping. With the mud, I decided I would save that joy for another day, so I hopped off and let Iona go just in time to see the Browns take off with Hunter and Dakota in hot pursuit, and Bruce at the back, galloping for a bit, then stopping to do a handstand now and again. Iona soon caught up.