Monday, January 17, 2011

Good weather and horseplay

The lack of blog entries the past few days doesn't mean I've been idle. The weather has been incredibly mild, so we've been making the most of it. I've worked out a sort of rota for playing with the horses, which prioritizes Iona and Bruce, and then allows for working with the others to some extent. It's a bit of a horse training treadmill, but of course the weather won't always be this good, so I won't always be playing so much.

I've always subscribed to the old PNH idea of concentrating on getting one horse to Level 3 before you take on others. I've mostly done this, so the change is a little uncomfortable. Change always is, for me. However, there are lots of plusses. I think playing with the flightier horses will teach me a lot and help me to be lighter and more sensitive. Sometimes I know that I treat Bruce and Iona like tractors, and if I do, then I am to blame when they behave like tractors. It also keeps Iona interested in me, when she doesn't always get picked.

So my days have been filled with horseplay, and a lot of horse catching. The routine is that when they come in for their buckets, we box the herd in, which makes it reasonably easy (well, possible) to catch Dove or Journey. Hunter has also decided he'd rather not be caught and likes to get the other two to go on a tear. He's trying to be possessive. I don't think Dove and Journey are that impressed with him. They try to stay together and avoid being driven around by Hunter, but he only has to start running around and their adrenaline goes way up, too. Journey has become much easier to halter. Mark has spent a lot of time working on that with her. We've neglected Dove a bit, and now that's starting to show. I had a nice session  with her yesterday, though. and I thought her attitude was a bit more positive this morning.

I played with Hunter on Saturday. I had hoped to have a little ride, too, but he and Bruce saw something scary off in the distance, and I couldn't manage to keep his focus, so we just played On Line. Everything went very well. I managed to work up to some changes of direction at trot, by rehearsing them at walk first, and his transitions are getting better. However, I couldn't get canter - just a fast panicky trot. Typical young horse stuff. I knew that if I pushed him he'd probably end up getting loose, so I decided to either try to develop this slowly or maybe later take him into a round pen where I could make the right thing easy (I hope).

Well, the round pen opportunity came the next day, as he caused to much commotion at feeding time, when I tried to catch Dove, that I decided he needed to play the Catching Game himself. When I took him to the round pen and sent him around, however, it was obvious that he'd played that game before. I've never done it with him in a round pen, but we sure played it in the big arena some months ago! So I'm not sure why, but he was hard to lose and hard to keep out on the rail without making him feel wrong. So since we were there, I put the line on and worked a bit on the canter thing. That went really well, and I hope I kept it relaxing for him. I finished the session by taking the halter off and sending him out and around a bit more, hoping to reinforce the catching.

Weave breakthrough!
Today I had a nice time with Iona. I took the time to groom her in a relaxed way, which she seemed to appreciate. We headed for the arena, where I had her saddle and stuff waiting. I wanted tp work on two tasks On Line: Travelling Circles and Weave. I started out doing some circles in the corner near the loafing shed where Bruce and some others were lounging. She was pleasantly surprised that I picked that spot, but I figured it'd pre-empt any decisions of hers to leave me. It worked.

Once I got her going a little, we changed to the Weave. I've been having trouble with this for ages. Especially getting her to maintain trot as she goes around the end markers. I set the markers a little closer together than usual today, as I know that my rope handling is part of the problem. I think that helped. I also had a brainstorm. Part of my problem is that I never seem to be close enough to the end marker to help her with the rope as she comes around. So today, I started off doing a Figure 8 at one end, but standing off center, almost level with the 2nd marker. She got that easily, and I kept going until she offered an enthusiastic trot. Enthusiasm is what I am looking to reward these days! That really made the whole thing much easier for me and she seemed more clear on what I wanted. Yay!!

We circle-traveled over to her saddle which she found like a bloodhound "Can we stop here?" so I tried saddlng at liberty. Easy. We played back and forth between Weave and the circles while I cinched up. We threw in the pedestal and a couple of jumps. I got her to maintain gait in trot for quite a long time. Now we just need to do the same with canter.

With the riding, my goals were a little Canter Passenger lesson, to practice taking her halter on and off while mounted and maybe some Cloverleaf. She wasn't thrilled with any of this. There was some bucking and general grumpiness - however, not from me. I'm learning. She needs to go forward/maintain gait as a priority over maintaining direction. So if she needs help to go, I don't argue about where. Just go! Then I gently and smoothly guide her back to our route. Of course, there's no route in a Passenger lesson. Iona's route was to the gate on that one, but we eventually made a little progress. After a couple of short canters I let that go for the day.

I hoped that the Cloverleaf might help her impulsion and also get her mind on X instead of the gate. She knows the pattern well, and we had been doing Question Box yesterday, so she saw the plan right away. Our arena's quite big. Normally, I think this is good for a short horse, but it also means it's a long way to X on the Cloverleaf! I figured it was much too far to trot - haha! So every time we went through X I did a downward transition to walk for about twenty strides. As soon as she got more cooperative we stopped for a rest. I took the opportunity to take the halter off and on. We changed the rein and did a few more, and again I looked for some good stuff to reward. I think we both felt pretty happy by the time we stopped.

1 comment:

  1. fab session Kris, you must be very pleased with the way it all went ;-)

    I love it when Solly needs more variety to just have 4 cones out and play around with weave, fig 8's and circles without any breaks...keeps him on his toes and tests his responsibilities well ;)