I had a nice day today, playing with two very different horses and doing quite different things with them. I started off with Dove. When she and Journey first went out on the track, I started putting up barriers at either end of the morning feed area, just to make it easier to catch them. Journey is simple to catch now, but Dove is still pretty elusive. Today I decided to set myself the challenge of catching her without the barriers. She must have realized that she was supposed to move on the the next phase, because she let me halter her without any problems.
I decided that it was time to groom her tail, which I have never done since she came here. I figured it might be a challenge if she was feeling defensive about Zone 5, what with the recent vet exam and all. It took a bit of time to work my way back there, but once I did, she let me work with her tail at liberty, and only walked around a couple of times, and never flinched at the detangler spray, during what turned out to be a very long session. One reason I hadn't groomed the tail was that it's fairly thin and wispy (at least by Fell pony standards!) so I thought it would be easy to zip through when I had a moment. No. When I had a proper look, I found a solid round mat the size of a baseball near the end of her dock. Eek! No wonder I always felt there was something odd about the way her tail hung. It took about an hour to get it all combed out, and it was all live hair - so Miss Dove has a much prettier tail now!
I can't get over the feeling that Dove is blown away by all the positive attention, and patient handling. I can see her processing it, and almost feel her wonder, sometimes. She has her moments of being stuck or even stubborn, but I feel that she is becoming sold on the new lifestyle. I brushed her body down. She is starting to shed out her winter coat. She enjoyed that, and let me go absolutely everywhere. Nice. I wanted to do something different with her today, so we went for a Zone 3 Driving walk across the pasture and to the far side of the track. She had a little trouble with the concept of going away from the herd. I had to disengage her a couple of times, but as my focus on where we were going got better, her confidence did, too. If that's as bad as she would be ridden, it would be pretty mild. If only I could have the same level of confidence ridden that I have on line!
We collected the empty haynets, and I shook old hay out of some of them. She enjoyed picking at it and relaxed as I got busy with my work. Once I had them all collected, I decided to see it she would carry them for me. I figured they were a nice familiar thing. She had no problem with that at all, and packed them all the way back to the yard for me. We finished up with a bit of Shiatsu back in her pen, which she enjoyed once she understood what I was up to.
All this time, Bruce had been patiently chilling in the pen next door. I'm sure he was ready to play, but his tail also desperately needed attention, so I got my comb out and resigned myself to another long session. We finally made it out of the pen and I took him for a drink. Yes, he needed to play! He got a drink then played with the feed buckets that were waiting to be washed. Then another drink. Then played with the buckets, etc. He went back and forth about five times, and each time he held the last gulp of water in his mouth in case he got a chance to dump it on me. That's quite a fun game, because of people's reactions. I let him have his fun with the buckets, but I made sure I stayed dry.
I put his bareback pad on and took him to the arena for a short play. We concentrated on some Level 3 Sideways games. I started on the fence, sending him in half circles. It took a few changes of direction before he woke up and then he got really bouncy. Great! I rewarded "bouncy" and tried for some fast sideways along the fence. We finished with him cantering sideways. We also did some sideways over a low jump, and other variations on a theme. One of the interesting things about loaning a pony out to other students is being able to say "I wonder if he knows.....Sideways Towards?" and finding out that he does! It needs a lot of polishing, but he knows what it is.
That seemed like enough. We headed out for a ride around the track. Some discussions about eating as we began were probably more to do with leaving the herd than anything. Once we turned along the dreaded east side I was very proud of him, because I could see that he was really trying for me. I'm still a bit nervous riding Bruce sometimes. Just not enough hours together, I guess. I got off once. There was a gate coming up, anyway. Dratted hotwire gates! You can't really work them from horseback safely, and I never remember to turn the fence off. Once through that, I got back on and decided that if he needed to hurry back, I could probably ride it. However, he surprised me by taking his time, and not blasting through any thresholds. We did lots of walk/trot transitions. Bless him, when we got to the west side, where the neighbor has just put a herd of cows out, he whinnied at them. Well, they're mostly black. I guess there might be a Fell pony hiding there somewhere! (One of the calves sure seemed to think Bruce might be his mama. I was glad he didn't come through the fence.) Iona was waiting to welcome us as we pulled into the yard.
Journey loaded up easily for her vet appointment on Thursday. He sedated her pretty heavily and put her in a squeeze chute for her exam. It didn't appear to be traumatic in the least. Boy was she snoring! And SHE'S NOT PREGNANT!! Happy days! The vet is in the nearest town where any significant shopping can be done, and we had a few errands, so Journey got to visit a few parking lots and an outdoor eatery on the way home, all of which she took in her stride. She is a very cool girl.
Mark played with her for a couple of hours today, including trailer loading, just to make sure she's forgiven us. No problems and he says they had a blast. She seems to be the kind of horse you can play with all day, and she just comes back asking what the next activity is.
Well, once again I apologize, as I feel this blog must be a little boring right now. Not much problem solving going on, what with all the horses doing as they're told. I wonder whether it has anything to do with the increase in undemanding time I'm spending with them.....