Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Scared Rabbit Club

So the horses got moved to a new grazing cell recently. I knew it was going to be an interesting one, because the last two cells they've been in have opened onto the feed/water area. They had to head east to get through those gates. This month, they have to head west, and trek along the track to get in for their feed. Bruce and Iona don't have any trouble with this - it's old hat. Hunter might remember to go west if he's feeling left brained that day. But then , it's not really in his interest to "remember". After all, why would he want to leave the grass and a couple of fairly unattached mares who can't read a map? Not to mention venturing down the very scary track!! Nope, his strategy the past few days has been to come through the gate (which I need to shut for the day) with the Fells and Journey (she's always up for a trip anywhere), then when I've almost got Ranger (who dawdles) and Dove (usually just to scared to move) out the gate, he runs back in, taking as many as he can with him. So I traipse back and forth with a halter or two collecting them all. 

If I'm lucky the whole herd can then be led/driven down the track to get their breakfast. Alternatively, Hunter may try to hold the others back and then there is a palaver where I have to backtrack and round them up again. Yesterday, I had a bit of a crackdown, so today they all followed me out of the cell like lambs. But every time I tried to go back up the track to shut the gate, they all turned with me and tried to run for it. Then I would turn, so they would turn. Good grief! In the end, I just walked them in, fed them, then zoomed out in a truck and shut the gate. 

Hunter seems to be going through all kinds of teenage rebellions now. Rounding up the other horses (not ponies!) if he can, and trying to take as many hostages as possible. It's a real pain sometimes when I'm trying to catch the two mares. They're scared of me because I might make them leave Hunter, which they're not supposed to do - you guessed it - according to Hunter! It's like Hunter has decided to form his own little Scared Rabbit Club, and if you're a horse you have to join, and he gets to be the president of the club. The Fells are a different story, of course. They find Hunter useful. If they're trying to move other horses, he will do their running around for them, like a teacher's pet. However, he also finds opportunities to organize Club boycotts of Fell pony planned outings. These are usually outings to go eat hay somewhere. I can't see this being a popular policy in the long term, however. Except maybe with the Fells, who then get to eat SEVEN haynets! And when I bring Hunter into the yard because we want to play with him, I can just see him thinking "That's my whole day ruined! I was gonna do stuff with the gang! This is awful!" Like a teenager who has to stay home on Saturday to write a term paper. 

However, on Sunday, I did invite his Hunterness to spend some time with me. He wasn't too impressed. I combed his mane, I put his bareback pad on. That's a ritual now. I still don't ride him much, but just in case! We went to the arena and worked on the FQ yields again. The facing forward thing wasn't as effective as last time, but probably still a good way to go. We moved on to circles. Lots of leaning on the rope and trying to escape sideways. Much more than he has done in a long time. I kept trying to reward any slack in the rope, but at the same time, was sticking to my guns that we would work on, or at least toward, a few canter laps. He just preferred to think about where the herd was, where he wished he was, and how truly unfair life was being to him! It wasn't long before we ended up in the round pen. I knew immediately that all that leaning on the line had been Left Brained, because as soon as we went into the pen, he stopped doing it. The pen is about 60 foot, so he had plenty of room to pull if he wanted to. I guess it just wasn't worth it anymore!

So we worked on a little Sideways. By now he was seriously sweating, as it was a hot day. He was also starting to act like a partner, and look rideable. Mark recently bought a mounting block, to make it easier to get on Ranger in the roundpen, so I pulled that in.

I've always been afraid that Hunter will just take off running with me and then I'll get tight, and it won't be a good experience for either of us. Our arena is huge. When Livia rode him, he did act green, but she was relaxed, had a ball, in fact, and Hunter did NOT run off with her. I was gonna follow up, but then I broke my wrist.

He is a really cool and talented horse, and now I am longing to do more with him. I always have this feeling that when I'm playing with him, and he's at the perfect point to get on, if only somebody was there to "help me" I would get on and do more. Often, nobody is around, but recently I have had somebody lead me around a couple of times. You know, it didn't help my nerves a bit!
I stood on the block and did a bunch of lateral flexion and stuff and hopped on. And just sat there for ages. Then I saw something that I thought might worry him, so I hopped off. Then I did a bunch more flexion and stuff and hopped on again, and just sat there. Finally, I got bored and asked him to walk. Then turn, did some indirect rein turns. Dang! I enjoyed it!

What I figured out was that I was (a) in too big a space before (b) didn't have the right height mounting block in the arena and, most importantly, (c) when you get on any horse you have to be "sure you're sure". That's actually much easier for me to do when nobody is around. I do the mental approach and retreat that I need to do, whereas I will push myself if I have somebody there, even if they are supposed to be helping me. Then I'm not confident enough when I get on. I'm hoping this will be the start of me and Hunter getting it together. It sure feels like it!


  1. WOW, what a great session with Hunter. I think I'm very similar with the 'mental issues' when someone else is around to help (ie. Mark). I just need to sort it out, get on/off as often as I feel I need to but to not forget to get back on/off finally with confidence and progress.

    I love the sense of 'humour' running through todays blog.

    A good stop sign (we just raise one hand like road cops do) to stop the herd following and to also release them from a session is what we do. Pain when they realise they can get to the gate before you can....I can see a cartoon coming on! lol

  2. Yeah, too bad I can't get Hazel to do an illustration or two!