Last week we had a visit from the vet, to find out about the status of the two new mares. Dove, it turns out, isn't expecting. To be honest, I am relieved. She's a bit thin, and we've had enough of an equine population explosion around here. Unfortunately, Journey couldn't cope with being examined, even with a sedative, so we still don't know what's up with her. The next step is to take her to the vet's facility, where he will be able to examine her in a crate or crush of some kind. Of course, the step before the next step was to teach her to trailer load.
Fortunately, we keep the trailer parked in a pen which makes it easy to practice loading. I started off by giving Journey her morning feed bucket in the trailer. First day, it was just at the edge of the opening. then a bit further in. When I got in far enough in that she needed to put her front feet in, she got stuck. I tried sending her in with a little approach and retreat, pressure and release, but she wasn't quite getting it. I did manage to pick up a front foot and just set it in, but she didn't step up. The following day, I taught her to lift her front feet by tapping them with the carrot stick and rewarding her with treats. That was easy, so I got her to stand on a few obstacles and rewarded her some more. She picked this up at lightning speed, and immediately put her front feet in the trailer when asked. The next day she put them in voluntarily to get her bucket. Then the wind blew for two days, and I hid in the house.
Today, we got back to our program. I put the bucket much further in (long stock trailer), but when I came back to check, she wasn't trying to figure this out. I played around very briefly with some friendly game at the rear end. (She's gonna need that, anyway, right? I'm hoping that I might be able to ask the vet to try once more without the crush, when we get to his place, if I can help her be ready.) Then I tapped her hind legs and asked her to lift them. I quit after some pretty vague tries, and took her to the trailer. She put her front feet straight in, but we still weren't quite making it with the hinds. She was getting out of position, so I sent her around to the side and then gave her a pretty energetic re-send. She went straight in, thought about things for a bit, and ate her breakfast in a pretty relaxed manner. Hooray!
I left her in the pen, with a hay net in the trailer, but when I came back she was hanging around outside. I put her on a 22' line and checked to see how she felt about being tied up by running the line through a ring outside the trailer. She followed the feel of this very well, until I had her snubbed quite short. No problem. I then drove her a little with the stick, just to see what she would do if she felt the pressure on her poll. I was ready to offer slack if she got worried. She thought things over and just gave to the halter easily. I reloaded her and ran the line out through the slats, so that I could keep a feel on the rope while I played with the doors. She just munched the hay and couldn't have cared less. I finally left her shut in the front half of the trailer, took the halter off and chatted to Mark for a little while. When I opened up the middle partition she stood calmly for me to put the halter back on and unload her like a seasoned pro. We are suitably impressed. She has made such huge changes in a short time, and is a very fast learner. From being untouchable, to hard to catch, to coming up to us for attention - and now this!
Fell Pony Adventures
Iona has been a bit lame for a week or so. We've been here before. Last time (last May) it passed after awhile, and again, it looks like getting better. It's somewhere in her left hind foot. Fetlock joint, I think. I haven't asked her to do much, and have given her some massages and extra TLC and essential oils. Maybe it's time to think about some herbs or a joint support supplement. Being a pony who isn't inclined to move without a good reason, I suspect that she may make things worse by letting it stiffen up, so I have walked her or encouraged the herd to keep moving a bit. Of course, I've no idea whether that's helped, but she seemed almost sound today, so fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, I've had the opportunity to ride Bruce out a bit more as as result. I feel that I'm finally getting to feel the benefits of his time with Livia. I see that he upholds his responsibilities better than he used to. Today, I thought I'd ride him and pony Iona around - probably just walk. I warmed Bruce up in the arena for a few minutes. I started with S bends (for rapport and draw). It didn't take long until they were actually willing and I had draw. Much better than the last time I tried them, when he just ran to (or maybe at) me and wouldn't change direction. When it started to look like he might try that again, I went to Falling Leaf (for respect and impulsion) and stuck with it until he was keeping his shoulder out and even offering canter. Whee!
We went and got Iona, as no way was I leaving Bruce in the arena to roll in his bareback pad again! They were acting like they'd never been led or taken through gates before, which didn't exactly fill me with confidence, but I tried to keep smiling and we made it back to the arena. I hopped on Bruce and played with Iona over some obstacles. She stood between some barrels and on a tarp - really basic stuff for her, but I figured it would catch her interest if she could do something cool and get a treat. I tried some Porcupine yields. Iona did well, but Bruce seemed to be having a hard time understanding where I was trying to position him part of the time. I'm sure he's done this before when I've ridden him and played with Hunter. Today it was a challenge, but Iona tried her heart out. We did some Touch It, which finished with all four feet on a low pedestal. Then, of course, Bruce wanted a turn on the pedestal, so I said "sure"! While he and I were up there I did some Yo-yo and Circling Game with Ony. I decided to ask for trot to the right, just to see how bad her foot was. She was a little unlevel part of the time, but wanted to keep going, which was encouraging.I sent her to the left, and she went willingly, but I only asked for about half a circle, as I figured it would be harder for her than the right circle. The next part was the best, though. We did Sideways with a fence, and they were both so cool! Really in harmony, then smoothly into Squeeze, and Sideways the other way, etc.
So we headed out for a look at the world. Or at least the east edge of the pasture. Most of the east side of the track is still closed, so they haven't been over there for awhile and it showed. We felled a tree there awhile back and there are still some huge pieces of trunk on the ground, and our neighbor seems to have dug a big hole or something, and there is a very large pile of spoil from this near the fence. In other words: IT'S A TERRIFYING PLACE TO TAKE YOUR PONIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I hadn't really thought of that.)
Sooooo - we got to work on thresholds. And grass eating. And not eating until invited. And not bolting for the barn. A - n - d b - r - e - a - t - h - e! I got off for awhile. I took them over for a look at the scary stuff. They took turns nibbling on weeds and going giraffe-necked and snorting. I finally thought they had relaxed, but when I turned them around, they dashed forward because now all the scary stuff was in Zone 5. Help! Naturally I thought I'd get back on Bruce anyway. (I know. Don't say it!) It went okay for a bit. We went back to the grass. They ate, they walked on, but I had a feeling. It wasn't that I wondered whether they would eventually take off with me, more that I wondered when they would do it. If I had only had one of them, I would have gone with the flow, but I decided I didn't need the experience with two, so I hopped off and walked back with them. That's not easy for me, but probably the right thing to have done, since I wasn't really confident.
Mark and I were talking about what a great resource the east side could be for us. We can take horses over there for walks and things to check out and build their confidence, so every cloud has a silver lining.