Sunday, January 23, 2016
Last winter I spent a lot of time riding Faygo and ponying Khaleesi along to help build her fitness. I used to nickname her ‘the anchor’ (not a great nickname for an endurance horse in training I suppose).
We just finished with a 2-day snow storm that hit the entire north and central mid-east with a beautiful layer of snow. We ended up with barely over a foot which is perfect for a good snow ride- and when the sun came out on day 3 with temps around 30 I gladly got out of the house and headed to the barn.
I decided to bring in both horses for a mash (beet pulp and grain) and some attention. I let Faygo relax with some hay and worked on new ideas I’d picked up while re-watching another of Buck’s videos during the snow-in.
It seemed ridiculously simple. Ask for a back up of a few steps- then change to a move over by pushing at the air by her head-neck. I know we can back up, and if I walk into her head space while leading she moves away and makes room for me to circle while she pivots around. This seemed *almost* the same. Might as well try it.
We had the back up just fine- but she just stood there as I pushed my palms into her head “airspace” as if I was an alien she did not understand.
I am always amazed at how something so similar to a thing we DO know can be completely foreign.
So I did the next suggested step and pushed gently into her by her jaw. She actually moved toward me- barely- not aggressively but either slightly frustrated or confused.
Eventually as I persisted she got it and stepped over. Then we relaxed and tried again. She picked it up pretty quickly after that but it was interesting how she had to learn that separately from move out of my space when leading.
We then worked with clicking to move toward me. We ONLY click (or cluck or kiss) to ask her to move toward me.
Again- she knows this when I stand away from her and click to her to walk forward toward me. I click to her when I ask her to come stand at the stool for me. She does that pretty well. I’ve also started tapping her shoulder to move it toward me with clicking sounds. She does ok- we get at least one step toward me right now and then move on to something else.
Today (feeling ambitious) I thought I’d try the hind. So I would tap her hip gently with two finger and click. She tried everything except move toward me. When she at least was moving her hind I released and thought it over….
How can I help… Give her a clue…
The next time I moved the lead rope under her neck to her far side and loosely left it around her hind with no pressure.
Started tapping and clicking again. She wasn’t sure what to do and when she started to move her front I gently put pressure on the rope which had the effect of asking her head to move away and led her to step her back foot just an inch toward me- I let go of the rope and rubbed her neck.
Great job- you are so smart!
I let her think a few minutes (she was in think mode) and when she was done we did some review of easy things for a couple minutes.
Then I tried another angle. I had her near the barn wall- so moving away from me was a hard choice- and asked her to shift her weight on the rear leg to the foot away from me. Then I clicked and tapped at her hip and she shifted and stepped an inch toward me again- knowing her weight was on the foot away from me made the shift toward me more likely.
We stopped there for the time and did a few simple review things again; then I put her in place for tacking up- loose lead.
Did we do better today? Let’s see:
2:03pm: Standing in place with the pad (that took 0 minutes)
2:09pm: saddle set in place. I had to play around with the pad as I wasn’t happy with the placement and that did not help. She fidgeted a decent amount but we got through it.
2:13pm: girth at first hole on each side. She was much improved here.
2:18pm: up to 3rd hole on each side. Ready to give her a break while I grab her head stall and get ready to roll.
2:38pm: we are mounted and ready. bit still poses no issue. Stood more quickly at the stool and still for mounting. I can’t say if I took the same amount of time in the break. That is when I make sure I have water, set my GPS, last bathroom break, grab my riding gloves and other last misc. things.
Last try (Thursday) we were at just under 60 minutes. Today was 35 minutes. And the process was noticibly easier.
This is worth keeping up with!
Because I couldn’t bear to leave Faygo behind we decided to take her along. It was a nice 5 miles walking in the snow. Faygo is easier to pony than Khaleesi was a year ago.
It was everything I love about a good winter ride: beautiful, quiet, peaceful and still. The dogs hopped along happily through the snow as well.
As for my saddle- I haven’t said much as the riding hasn’t been perfect for getting comfortable in a new seat. We can’t move out much in the ice and frozen ground- so I’m doing a lot more walking. Everything new takes some getting used to and though I always liked it I needed a little time to settle in- and I’m not quite sure yet what length my stirrups will work best at…
I think it fits her great. And today I really started to feel settled into the seat. It’s comfortable, secure and I do love it! I am sure we will find our sweet spot as we get more time in it together.
It was fun to remember a year ago when our roles were reversed. Khaleesi did really well today as the lead horse and though she can still throw a tantrum and threaten to kick horses that invade her space (though I never allow it I know it’s still possible from time to time) she was tolerant of Faygo and they were fun to have out together.
Faygo’s only issue was in thinking she should be able to take the lead heading home. I suppose she wanted to pony me. Not how it works dear.
Overall a great experience and always feel blessed to have such a great pair of horses.
Stay warm out there!