"Post from the Past"
February 24th 2008
Today when I went out to the field, Chico was the first to greet me, so I took him out. We went straight out the driveway for a walk. He was weaving all over the road for a while. He also wanted to pass me, or stop and eat grass, or chase the dogs…in general, he was real full of himself and wasn’t used to being respectful or paying attention to me. He wasn’t that bad, but more cantankerous than usual, also a little bit unsure in some places. The dogs found their deer bone again. Dogs laying down chewing on bones really unnerves horses for some reason (both Chico and Cody today!). I found a hub cap on the side of the road, and I used it to kick around and desensitize him with. He of course freaked at first, but got really curious about it after.
Almost halfway to the turnaround spot on our walk, I had to stop and lunge him for a while, as he was getting really antsy. He started to pay more attention to me after that. Then we continued walking and I worked on getting him to stop and back when I stop and back. At first, when I stopped, he just kept walking, so I pulled really hard to spin him around. We did that several times, then he started to catch on and pay more attention. Once he was paying attention, then it was easy to get him to back as I backed.
We turned around at the red barn on Dry Creek Road. On the way back, I asked him to trot, then whoa and back. Same thing over again, he wanted to just keep trotting when I stopped, so I had to pull him around really hard, then make him back up. He caught on after a couple of stops. Once, I asked him to back and he did nothing, so I gave him a horse kick in the chest…then he dropped his head and back when I asked him. He was just testing me a little bit, and he’s used to being one of the top horses in the pasture, so he’s not used to obeying someone else’s every whim. About half way back, he dropped back into his old self, where he was paying attention to me really well…not until then would I have ridden him. I think I’ll bring my saddle next weekend and ride him on Sunday.
After Chico, I caught Cody and took her in the round pen. She was quite a bit better today with manners than she was last week. Only once did she try to go over to the hay pile while I was closing the gate, and I made her back away from it. Then she was very mannerly. We went into the round pen and I right away got the plastic bag on the stick. She’s not afraid of it at all, but I made sure and desensitized her first, then I lunged her using the bag to create a bit more energy. It is still working great, and today, she showed no signs of insolence like last time (the bucking). She did everything I asked and paid close attention to me.
I bridled her at the jeep with my new bridle, and used Todd’s truck to climb up on her bareback. Off we went down the driveway at a good walking clip. Today, she didn’t seem nearly as ouchy on gravel, but we also stayed on roads that were softer (last time the road was still frozen in spots). We went down to the end of the loop where it meets up with Little Bear Ridge Road, then back. I think it was probably over 3 miles, but under 4. We did some trotting and cantering (I love cantering on a bareback horse up a gentle incline…it’s the neatest feeling in the world!). I really tried to work on getting her to side-pass. As we were walking down the left side of the road, I’d put my left leg back and push and at the same time, pull the left rein to my hip to swing her hindquarters out. We had to do that a few times, just so that she would get it. Then when she was swinging out perpendicular to the edge of the road, facing the ditch, I’d also apply right rein pressure and move my leg more toward the left middle, to push her over. She really wasn’t getting it very well, and I suppose it didn’t help that home was over the bank, so she’d sometimes step into the snowbank. The other direction, she wanted to just back up when I applied the second rein pressure. After a while, I started to think that maybe I was keeping her head tilted too far to the left (she was supposed to side-pass right). Then I tried stopping her in the road, then asking her to step side-ways with my leg, while blocking her forward movement with the reins….and she side-passed! Only one step or two, but we’ll practice that. I’d like to eventually be able to ask her to side-pass over a log. Cody is so smart that sometimes I think she’s playing dumb just because she doesn’t want to listen to me when I ask her to do something.
After we returned, Catlow was standing at the gate, so I took her out too. I didn’t really feel like taking her for a walk, and to be honest, I kind of have been avoiding her because I felt like all the work that I’d done so far had done nothing for her. So I took her in the round pen and decided to do a lesson with the plastic bag. I turned her loose, and then just started walking around waving the bag violently. She of course took off, running around the pen. I ignored her and when ever I inadvertently cut her off, she’d quick change direction and run the other way, but very quickly after only a few circles, she stopped and faced me. I stopped waving the bag when she did that to give her a reward and a break, then continued waving the bag. She ran another circle, then stopped and faced me again, so this time I walked up to her, let her sniff the bag, then set it on her withers and rubbed her with it. She stood there really well, so I slapped it up and down her body, and she stood there!!! Without a lead rope! Then we switched sides and did the same thing and she stood again. I was a bit floored because my impression of her after taking her for a walk had gone way way back to before I started working with her. It was nice to see that working with her in the round pen really had stuck with her.
Then I decided to push her and I ran around with the violently flapping bag. This of course set her off and she took off round the pen, but she faced up again! After I was positive that she was not afraid of the bag, I decided to use it as an aid to get forward movement when I lunged her free (no lead rope…I guess you could call this roundpenning). I hadn’t done this with her in a long time, so I was unsure what to expect. But she moved off really well, and the bag definitely created more forward movement. But she wasn’t panicked, I could get a slow trot out of her, and a canter. I only worked with her very briefly with several changes of direction. I tried to make my body language very consistent (point to go faster, and only shake the bag when she ignored me). And when I asked her to stop, I said whoa and walked up to her with the plastic bag and gave her a treat. This was also way different from when I first started working her in the round pen. She used to want to take off again when I approached her, as though the whole round pen experience was beyond her comprehension…she didn’t know why I was chasing her or what I expected of her. And I haven’t been lunging or round penning her since then. She is so much better now! This is all a sign that she definitely trusts me more than she used to, even though it didn’t seem like it after our walk.
I’m really glad that I worked her today because it has given me more hope. I will continue to work with her with the goal of riding her out of the round pen. It might have to be with Cody, but that doesn’t matter right now. I think that this week, I’ll saddle her up and do some more exercises, then I’ll start riding her around the round pen. Then by this weekend, I’ll be ready to take her for a walk saddled. And maybe I can convince Doni to come out, and we can take Catlow for a walk with another horse, too.
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