Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just Smashing!

Tuesday, Dove got her feet trimmed. I had managed to pick them up a few times, and our trimmer, John Graves does a nice job with less-than-confident horses, so things went great. I decided that having passed this milestone, and now being pretty easy to catch, I'd introduce her to the herd and if all went well, turn her out. I put Bruce in the arena and took Dove in and led her around the perimeter to show her the fence. (We put a training wire, that looks just like the stuff on the track in Dove and Journey's pen a few days ago.) 

Once I let her go, Bruce tried to sniff her rear end, she made to kick him with one of those long hind legs, and he whirled around and squealed and double barreled her to let her know that's not advisable. With that out of the way, they totally lost interest in each other. I put two piles of hay on a tarp for them and they ate pretty well in close proximity until the hay ran low. Then Bruce started nipping her shoulder to move her off. 

While they had their lunch date I played a bit with Iona in the round pen. (I've missed using the round pen. It's been a calf hospital for ages, however, the calf is finally better and  been moved in with some buddies.) We worked on our Porcupine stuff, did a few successful changes of direction and transitions, and I hopped on for a brief bridleless session. It all went well, especially the circles and riding. I can pretty well fake having the stick in my right hand now, if I use it two handed or just drag it along. However, she was pretty light and I didn't need it much. I'm afraid that I still don't have much of a program about progressing with Bruce and Iona these days, other than getting better responses with the Porcupine Game, especially where their heads are concerned. I just mess around and do what I can. Liberty is the easiest, although Iona is not bad to ride. I try to keep the sessions short and not show them too much about what I can't do.

I then put Iona in the arena with the other two. She wasn't interested in Dove at all. Just wanted to stand by the gate with Bruce. Okay then! I spent just a couple minutes catching Dove, haltered her, and we all started down the track. I encouraged the Fells to walk in front and Dove and I followed. We stopped for a drink and then headed on out to the pasture. I let Dove graze on line for a little while then took the halter off. I hung out for a bit, then made sure that I could still catch her. That took maybe five minutes of persistence. She looked pretty relieved when I let her go again!

I had left Hunter in the pen next door to Journey for company. However, he didn't have to stay there long, as Mark arrived home with yet another new horse! This is a gelding that belongs to a workmate of Mark's. Mark has him on trial. He's a sort of "been there, done that" horse, and we've heard good things about him. However. I wasn't prepared for the great big guy who stepped off the trailer. Especially as Mark had forgotten to take a halter with him when he picked him up, so I said, "Oh, don't worry. Just open the trailer door a bit and I'll throw a rope over his neck." Well, here was this big bay, about 16hh, and about 12hh wide! Talk about stocky! He's actually built a little like Iona. Short legs and a really, really deep body. How kids barrel raced him I'll never know, but it must have been something to see. This fellow currently rejoices under the name of "Smash" (part of his registered name). I'm thinking something like "Ranger" might be nice. We'll let you know.

Most of Wednesday was taken up with picking up a load of hay, but with the round pen clear, I decided it was time to try and make some more progress with Journey. I'd love to be able to turn her out, but I'd also love to be able to catch her again, get her feet  trimmed, be able to deal with her (and maybe a foal) if she's pregnant, etc. On the way home we figured out how to create a corridor from her pen to the round pen, where we could open a gap in the panels to drive her in. That went smoothly and I started playing the Catching Game. I'm not surprised that she's proving a tough customer with this. and I wish I had some more Savvy Arrows. I ended up sending her around for ages. She would start to lock on to me, and would face me when I took the pressure off, but I couldn't get any forward steps. In the end I played things a little different and approached her. If she let me make a little progress (first, touch me, then let me touch her and make some progress through the zones) I'd back off. Not all these things at once, of course, but progressively. If she chose to leave, I'd send her out again. If not. we'd do a slow dance where I'd casually try to get back to Zone 5, then send her out. We had quite a long session, and she was a bit sweaty but I managed to get a little further past her withers than we had been so far. I didn't want to push her any harder as it was getting late and cold and I didn't want to stress her too much.

Today we had another session. I tried a few new things. One was backing into her space just as her Zone 5 went behind me on the circle. I watched Pat do that on the old Catching Game DVD. However, I think that scared her, so I quit. We also had a period when the whole thing took on a more playful feeling. I think that was great, but somewhere it dribbled away and I didn't really find it again. I also tried using a telescoping rod to touch her. It was a bit cumbersome and not quite long enough for the size of the pen, but I'll try it again in a smaller space. Toward the end of the session I'm pretty sure I approached too much and retreated too little. Darn!  I felt that I'd taught her to keep facing me but we weren't progressing much past that. I also discovered that she really doesn't want me on her left side, so I worked on that, and when she let me touch her a little there, we called it a day. Later, when I was doing chores in her pen, I noticed that she was obsessively facing me. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing.....

I also had short sessions with Bruce and Smash/Ranger today. Bruce and I mainly worked on Game 2 at Liberty. I could tell he would like to do more, but I didn't have a plan. At least the little bit we did went pretty well.

I managed to play the first four Games with the big guy. He's been a little pushy and disrespectful so far, so we defined my space. He went along with this, but I can tell he doesn't really believe me yet.  Surprisingly, his Porcupine and Driving was pretty good in all Zones. It's possible he's been played with a little in the past. I think his owners have flirted with PNH. Yo-yo was harder. He couldn't believe that Phase 1 or 2 meant anything. Perhaps my energy could have been clearer? Having given him a couple of BIG Phase 4s, I settled for some good steps at Phase 3.

It's amusing to have all these things that I can do with horses I hardly know. The first four Games one handed are pretty easy. So is most of the work with Journey. But at the same time, I can do so little with my "advanced" horses. At least the new guys are keeping me occupied. 

A bit of a blizzard hit this afternoon, and they say we will have some really low temperatures for awhile. Because Bruce was in, the others hung around the yard area all day and didn't go get their hay. By the time Bruce was out the storm was coming, and he was not sure whether to take them out to the pasture or stay near the shed. I knew they were hungry and needed something in their bellies for the cold night. They got halfway up the drive and stood around eating weeds with the snow sticking to them. By dusk they were still there. I decided to put a bale in their shed and walked them to it. Dove isn't well integrated yet. She hangs back and Hunter bullies her a bit. I was worried that she wouldn't get into the shed or get any hay, so I offered to catch her, and would have let her wait the storm out with Journey, but she wasn't having it, and it was getting dark and I was frozen. I felt bad, as she's a bit thin. but she's lived out all her life and I know she'll be fine. If she's looking unhappy in the morning I'll catch her and give her some TLC.


  1. your progress with newbies is very's always easier to see progress with a new horse and I think don't realise how much you do with Iona and Bruce. I'm not sure but what are your aims, dreams for the fells anyway? As far as I can see, knowing you a little, it was to have fab work/hacking horses that were a joy to be've got that. If you have more goals then figure out what you need to do to progress that otherwise be very very happy with having two fabulous hacking/pulling horses that do you proud.

    I know that my Mark doesn't progress as I would like his horse to do but he's happy at the stage he's at. He has a horse who is light to respond, does everything he asks, takes him for fabulous, safe hacks in beautiful countryside and for him that is enough.

    One of the best things we can offer our horses is to know what we want and to let them be the horses they want to be too ;-) maybe Iona and Bruce are perfect the way they are ;-)

  2. Shelley - Thanks, as always, for the words of encouragement. I do have higher goals for the ponies, and we could still use some improvement in the smoothness of our trail riding operations, too! Having said that, I am often taken by surprise in a pleasant way by all that they can do, and do willingly! It's great to appreciate what you have, but I like to be progressive with horses, and I think they like it, too.

    I think it is just easier to do the basics like Catching and the primary games with my little handicap. And I can tell you, it's great to have a reason to be doing it right now, as I was getting pretty bored and down sitting in the house!