Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fun With Hunter - and other stories

I've had a couple of nice sessions with Hunter recently. He has been joining the hard-to-catch mob some mornings, and in fact, was becoming a ringleader. We really didn't need that, so I thought a little time in the round pen might help. He didn't need a lot of Catching Game as it turned out, but it has been a good opportunity to progress his Circle Game, and we seem to have played enough with catching to improve his attitude in the mornings.

I think I have been afraid that I would put too much pressure on him in the pen, especially as it's a high sided one. However, I have more self control than I thought (LOL!) and I see that it can also be a tool to make the right thing easy. The simple fact that going in a circle becomes a given, means that neither of us has to worry about where he's going and we can focus on transitions and maintaining gait. The fact that he has now cantered some circles (not too many yet) seems to have improved his trot circles in the arena quite a bit. No doubt the work Livia and Mark have put in helped, too! I managed to teach him to do changes of direction at the walk, and immediately show him how to do it at trot successfully, the other day.

Today was cold and windy, and Hunter had spent an hour or two by himself in the yard by the time playtime arrived. We're trying to keep up a pattern of him spending a little time on his own fairly often. So it wasn't the best set up for a great session, but we had one! My goal was to work on Traveling Circles, maintaining gait, looking where he's going, and hopefully to put enough poles in his way to make him think and encourage him to use himself better. What a blast I had! He was full of go, and easy to direct most of the time. I couldn't believe this was his first session at this task! It wasn't all smooth sailing, he was bracey sometimes, worried about the tarp and certain monster poles! I don't think we have two matching poles/logs on the whole farm. What makes some scary and not others remains a mystery.

Hunter on the go with Livia in October
It was such a change for me play like that with a horse who has so much go. I could really get to like playing with this type of horse. I also believe that "horses teach humans" and that somehow, Hunter may teach me a "feel" that I can pass back to my slower ponies, that may get them moving. Perhaps in the form of new expectations.

Learning with Ranger 
I had the chance to play with Ranger twice this week. Before that I hadn't done much. He is a pretty nice horse, so far. I have to say though, I'm not getting barrel racer! He's mostly a big, slightly pushy "okey dokey" sort of guy. He can be pretty reactive, but that's probably because I try to move too fast for him and forget he's new to me and the environment. So far I don't see that he has tons of go, though. Having said that, he's easy so far, and we will be moving into a little L2 stuff next time, while we consolidate L1. 
I learned something interesting from Ranger during our last session, that I thought was worth mentioning. With so many horses to progress, and a lot of Level 1, more L1 and still more .... well, you get the picture, I realise that I've been a little hard on myself while playing with the newbies. Hard in the sense of thinking that I must achieve everything I try in a session. In a way, these high expectations are working for me, but somewhere in the middle of Ranger's last session I also realised that if I'm that hard on me, I'm also being exactly that hard on the horse, too. I was getting a bit "C'mon, we have to get this so I don't have to do it again on Tuesday," if you see what I mean. I'd definitely stopped playing! I will try to hang on to that!

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