Not so Fine Tuning

Monday, May 25, 2015

Green to 100 is on the road now. Memorial Day we loaded up and rode to meet our riding family Nancy and Carrington for a 12 mile loop that is a nice “easy” 12 as it’s shaded, lots of water, and not much altitude- small hills but no real mountain climbs.

There are lots of things Khaleesi is doing great with:

On her backShe will go just about anywhere I point her (sometimes after a few kicks to communicate that indeed, I mean we ARE going THERE). She walks over big logs, through branchy messes, over bridges, across streams etc… She seems to trust me, and doesn’t have much fear.

She doesn’t ‘tailgate” the other horses on the trail- we can usually keep a nice distance without much fighting. She doesn’t mind being in front of the group or behind- sometimes riding the middle of three is a challenge to keep her attention on me, but overall she will lead or follow.

She is versatile with speed. We do walk slower than our gaited friends, but she’ll trot out slow or fast depending on what we’re doing and though it’s taking a little time for us to get used to each other- she getting used to moving under someone’s weight and me getting used to staying balanced and finding the sweet spot as we move, overall we can walk, trot, and canter pretty well.

She is loading really well onto my little trailer- it does take a couple minutes, but we get a little better each time.

And there are a few things that Khaleesi needs to work on:
IMG_7343Trail manners, trail manners and Trail Manners! After a few rides with friends, I’ve found that she is a kicker. So in the positive category, she doesn’t have much fear and is a confident horse, but that also translates to bossy mare who doesn’t want anyone around her personal space (and that space bubble is pretty wide!) and doesn’t want another horse to pass her. The initial part of this process is the scarlet letter – or a red ribbon in her tail warning people that she might kick (at least it’ll match her colors :-). However, changing the behavior is critical because I don’t want to be riding a horse I have to make excuses for. Kicking is at best rude, and worst dangerous.

For the moment when she kicks out (it happened about 3 or 4 times in our 4 hour ride), I turn her in tight circles making her work in place as the other horse moves away from us. I make her back up and move around until her whole focus is on me. The last kick out on the latest ride happened toward the end of the ride. We were in front and I sensed she was not focused on me, she was “squirrely” in her back end and thinking of the horse behind us, she wasn’t moving forward nicely either as I was asking. I think she was getting tired and cranky, and I asked my friend to pass us when we got to a wider spot. When she went to pass Khaleesi got two hind legs up to kick out and at that point I jumped off and did my best to “kick her butt” so to speak unclipping a rein and immediately working her in circles around me, backing her up and getting her focus back on me. Then I backed her into the woods to let the two other horses pass and we went in the back of the pack.

This is just a symptom of a larger issue we will start to work on now.

#1 – She is in a pre-teen kind of phase. I know we have a bond now, but I need to continue to instill respect and I will have to watch that in all our interactions as even her stepping into me or not backing up when I ask her leading her into the barn can translate into her thinking she can kick another horse when I’m riding her on the trail later.

#2 – We need to take more mid-length rides of 2-3 hours where I can build up her mental stamina. We did a fair amount of 60-90 minute rides in the winter, and with my work schedule currently we’ve been finding long days to take a 4 hour ride with not enough shorter days to build up that middle ground distance and time. Because of this I think that as the ride goes on she gets tired and instead of just falling in line and behaving because she’s tired- she gets cranky and stops paying attention to me. (She also kicked out early in the ride, but more experience and mental stamina will still help overall)

#3 – We will begin riding alone. This will help us develop our bond rider & horse without any distractions- hopefully giving us better communication and help me have more control when we are riding with friends (and especially strangers!)

#4 – Trail rides (until this issue is curbed) will be partly focused on training out the kick behavior by setting her up and watching for early signs of ears pinning or focus change and making her work harder whenever she begins to show signs that she is more interested in the other horse than what I’m asking her.

IMG_4357I remember working in the arena with her I would occasionally find bad habits or attitude behaviors that concerned me, and we have been able to train through each of them. I am willing to put a red ribbon in her tail for now- but we are going to get past this- hopefully sooner than later!

As for the other trail issue I learned about yesterday… She walked into a pretty big mud puddle, stopped and laid right down! I jumped off her, and have to admit it was pretty hilarious. I walked in front of her and wish I’d had the presence of mind to get a picture- but all I could think of was YOU HAVE TO GET UP BEFORE YOU ROLL MY SADDLE AND PACK INTO THE MUD. And I pulled her forward to get up! So… she could be a trail mud & water roller too. This I can handle, but it’s good to know!