Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Back to Reality: The Ups and Downs of True Horsemanship
Saturday, after my wonderful day with Leah Friday, I was dreading going back out and working with her again. You know what I mean, further to fall? Like, Oh dang, I have high expectations now, I can only be disappointed.
I chose to work with Beautiful first, but before we went to the arena, I needed to fill a trough up through the orange hose in the picture above. For some reason, Beautiful was scared to death in that area, and somehow managed to get turned around and caught in the hose! It wasn't pretty and, in the process of her trying to escape the hose, she crowded my space. Quite. A. Bit.
When she does things like that I start to wonder if I really want to ride her someday. But then I remind myself that any horse can panic in the right situation and it just shows me what we need to work on. And, we did work for a while on being comfortable in that space and comfortable with the hose. Then, we worked in the arena, and after she was calm and engaged, I put her back in with the others.
When I went to get Leah, she walked away. Self-fulfilling prophecy? But she didn't walk too far, or too fast, and stopped pretty quickly. I worked on lowering her head and then progressed to some mouth work. Most of her tension is held in her mouth--she grates her teeth when she's really pissed off--so she wasn't about to give me her mouth happily. I'd say we didn't do very well at all with that part of it.
Fast forward to Sunday, I got to ride Cowboy at Palisades Park. My job in the Palisades group is to maintain the website, social media and park kiosks. There are 4 kiosks spread over 700 acres, so I generally ride Cowboy to each kiosk and refill the flyer boxes with trail maps. We also have our annual clean up coming April 23rd, so we needed to staple advertisements for volunteers to the kiosks, as well. My husband did that part for me. It was a fun ride and Cowboy was sweating from tail to nose at the end.
Fast forward to Monday. Cowboy walked away from me as soon as he saw me coming to the pasture! Surprise!
Fast forward to today, Tuesday.
I had a lesson with Leah this morning. First off, when she saw me coming to get her, she and Cowgirl started running to me from across the pasture. I have no idea why they did that because when Leah arrived at my side and thought about it for a second, she backed away. Like, oops! But it was too late for her to change her mind and she was soon haltered and heading down the road to the lesson barn.
We had a wonderful lesson and I think I'm going to take her on her first spring trail ride tomorrow to test all of this out. Also, there's a trail challenge coming up this month, hosted by my instructor, and she thinks we're ready for it. I just might try!
I did ask her about the mouth thing, and she watched me with Leah and gave me some suggestions. What she had me do is tip her head in and massage/rub the outside of her nose and muzzle. When she relaxed a bit, I let her head go to give her time to think about it. Then, I tipped it in again and continued to massage her mouth and the corners of her mouth with my knuckles. Relax. Release. And, on and on, until I was massaging her gums with my hands from both sides.
She also had suggestions for my ask on lowering the head. She had me cup my hand into a "C" shape and place it just behind the boney party of the poll. Put pressure there, wait until she lowered, and release. If her head bounced right back up, I put the pressure back on. I only used the halter to position her head, not pull down. Then, she wanted me to pick a spot--the height of my elbow--and make that the goal position for her head. If she raised it above that spot, the "C" pressure was put right back. It worked pretty sweet, I must say.
I'll update my blog tomorrow and let you know how the trail ride goes!
*** My thought for the day***
A horse walking away isn't necessarily a rejection of you, more likely, it's a rejection of the idea or proposition you're presenting. (ie. a trailer ride away from her/his buddies and an hour, or more, of pretty hard physical and mental work.)