Friday, January 22, 2016
As I lingered under the covers Thursday morning I thought about how pretty and mild the day was forecasted to be. The one day of the week I was booked solid from 9am-7:30pm. I grabbed my phone to check morning emails without climbing out of the covers even for coffee to learn that due to impending weather everything was cancelled. A snow day with no snow!
What a gift!
I had a ton of work to catch up on so I decided to dig in and wait to spend any barn time until later in the day- it would also be the warmest then.
It wasn’t until after 2:30pm that I was able to get to the barn. I was conflicted as to how to use my time. We’ve had cold weather and more alone time recently and I was a little bored with short loops and training around the yard. I didn’t really have enough time to put in a lot of miles.
I have sensed lately that Khaleesi isn’t really paying attention to me. It’s been gnawing at me since I sent a video of us working to a friend and she said as much after watching us.
I looked back. It was true.
We were getting things ‘right’- she moves nicely with me when we walk, she’ll stand at the stool now, but it’s like a teenager in a class they are bored with yawning as they give the answer with a ‘yeah yeah yeah I know… But what’s for lunch today‘ kind of attitude.
She’s not really focused. Not on me at least. I wasn’t really that important to her lately.
Maybe we should do groundwork?
No… It’s too pretty of a day for that… Come on!
I don’t know what we’re going to accomplish riding for 2 hours… Not speed, not mileage, seems like a waste of time- we should do something worthwhile.
I often don’t have an exact plan when I walk out to the field. It sort of develops as we go and see where she is and where I am that day.
Somehow it came together.
When I walked out the girls were at the end of the pasture. Just standing in the sun not close to each other. They could have been napping.
I decided to ignore them at first and check out their hay stash and run in shed. (Honestly you are already short on time- you should grab your horse and get moving!)
Horses wake up and start walking over to me (this is not a waste of time- today we are going to be excellent at every step – and pretend like we have all day… That is the plan now. Even if we don’t ride. We are going to focus on every single step today)
I let them find me. Khaleesi walks into the shed and takes a bite of hay. I ignore her and walk toward the gate a few steps. She is curious. I don’t look at her but try to use body language to invite her to follow me.
She does. I can hear her a few steps behind me.
She is paying attention to me.
I get her closer to the gate and reach back to rub her neck. She stands there and I put on her halter. We walk out together and she leads nicely to the barn. We (as always now) change speeds and back up and even do some circles to be sure we are connected.
In the barn I give her a snack of beet pulp (wet to encourage hydration in the winter when they are prone to drink less), omega (supplement and feed) and show and pleasure pellets- with salt on top- again to encourage drinking. As she eats I brush her off and formulate the plan.
We are going back to the basics today. We will ride if we can, but I have gotten lazy lately: tacking her up while she is distracted by eating. I’m going to ask her to stand still while I work around her and tack up and if it takes the entire time I have at least we will have worked on something valuable.
This skill- being able to saddle up while she stands quietly, lead rope draped over my arm- is very valuable for our endurance training. At vet checks this would be a great skill to cultivate considering we often don’t have anything to tie to, I often don’t have a crew handy and there’s not always someone to hold your horse when you need. We are going to get serous about this skill this winter. And it will demand her to focus.
One reason I have been lazy about letting her eat while grooming and saddling is that she gets snippy sometimes. She’ll tell me she doesn’t like that… Cinching up or putting on the breast collar or rubbing her with a cloth… It’s not serious but she needs to learn (as Buck says) “to live with that.” It isn’t hurting you- you are going to have to be ok with this process.
So I brought out all I would need and asked her to stand next to the saddle horse and every time she moved a foot I calmly put her back in place. She moved a lot at first and also would try to block me with her head if I went to walk around her. I went slow and methodically. Each step I attained I took a picture to record the time.
3:08pm: Standing still in place and groomed to go.
3:14pm: took 6 minutes to stay in place, rub her, place the pad and stay standing still.
3:21pm: 7 minutes to get her standing still in place to set the saddle on her back.
3:31pm: 10 minutes to get the girth to the first hole on each side. She is not great with this part and she stepped off more than once. She even nipped her teeth in my direction once- to this I immediately backed her half way down the barn aisle and then brought her back in place. After that she stood much better.
NOTE: I do not beloved she is in any pain with this and the saddle fits. It’s a habit and an attitude. There are times if she’s eating and distracted she doesn’t even register that she’s being tightened up. After I get it on loosely- she is usually pretty easy to tighten up. So I do not believe this is her crying out for help or in any pain.
3:36pm: breastcollar. I now also tighten one hole here and there on her cinch as I’m working. And rub her and just stand with her quietly too.
3:45pm: bit and headstall. Before the bit I tied her back up, put a few apple treats in her dish as a reward/break and did a few last things as I went to get the bit out of the warm tack room. She was good at taking the bit and it didn’t take but a minute once I put her back in place.
3:53pm: 12 minutes working on standing at the stool. She was not good here- she would step her hind away and walk off. It took a while to get her to stand still in place and then be sure she was paying attention to me before I tried to get on.
3:57pm: finally mounted and she stood still while I got out my camera and reset my GPS.
4pm: walking out to the trail. It took almost an hour to saddle, tack and mount properly. We don’t have that kind of time at the vet check!
After all that I had about an hour left to ride. The ground is hard and frozen slick in many places. I decided to work on getting a good walk.
She did seem more into the ride and she argued less about going out. She only tried the turn around about 3 times and each time I caught it before she could get her head around and pushed that hind end back onto the right track. She isn’t trying with as much force now. It’s a halfhearted effort (that is progress!)
I wonder if my horse friends & readers can tack their horses without tying (and asking the horse to stand quietly withou fidgeting)… Does everyone else already do this? Or would it be a challenge for others as well?
I am going to get back into this habit again as I believe it made a big difference in our relationship during the ride. Has anyone else made this a priority? Let me know- I’m curious. Have you tried it? Is it easy for you? Make a comment here if you have (or haven’t).