Monday, May 3, 2010

Lawnmowers, poles, and lunge whips, oh my!

After working my behind off this weekend re-doing a bunch of fencing lines, riding two horses both days, moving/spreading the manure pile (not to mention getting the tractor stuck in the manure!), I just didn't have the energy to ride today. I thought it would be good to do some ground work, though, so ground work we did.

When I rode Paddy yesterday I had set up some cavaletti poles in the arena to walk, trot, and canter over. I left the exercise set up and decided I would work with buck over the poles to introduce him to another level of work that he'll be doing eventually (as a precursor to jumping).

At the same time, Colin decided he wanted to mow the lawn and asked if he should wait until later so that he wouldn't disturb Buck. No need - Buck needs to get used to busy-ness and loud motorized noises and working with distractions. So off Colin went to mow and I groomed Buck and put the bridle on.

We walked up the high road and he stopped to listen to the lawn mower (he couldn't see it because Colin was in the back yard) but didn't really make a big deal out of it. We continued up the path toward the arena where the mower was now louder and visible. No big deal, though.

In the arena I worked with Buck at the walk, leading him over the poles. There were two single poles set up perpendicular to the rail, one on each long side, and three poles in a row, set at a walk stride, perpendicular to the short side. Well jeepers, that must have been the most boring thing in the world to him because he didn't give a rodent's patootie about walking over the poles.

I thought I might try to introduce Buck to lunging today, since it is something he needs to learn. Lunging is a useful tool for many reasons - it is frequently used as a diagnostic tool to watch the horse move during a veterinary exam, it can be used to introduce a horse to contact with the bridle, and some people use it as a way to get rid of excess energy the horse may have before riding. I had prepared ahead of time for this by having him bridled with the lunge line attached to the bit. I keep a lunge whip by the arena gate and brought it out to introduce it to Buck. First I showed it to him then I gently touched him all over his body with it, running it down his neck and back, tickling his belly with it, and running it down his legs. Again, he just didn't care.

We then walked on and I dragged it behind me so he could get used to the sight and sound of it following me on the ground. He didn't bat an eye. The one thing that will be difficult will be getting him to move out away from me with me facing his side. When I stepped back to try to get in the center of what could have been a small circle, he turned to face me. So I've got to teach him to stand so that I can face his side and he will move forward, not move to face me. I didn't have a lot of time and didn't want to push the issue so my next focus was to walk him on the lunge line but have more distance between us with him moving forward more to keep an even pace with me. That seemed to work well and after two circles we finished for the day. I ran the lunge whip over him again, gave him some carrot and we went back to the trailer.

He continues to be a bit fussy with his right ear so I'll keep working on positive reinforcement with him letting me touch it and move it, but I'm sure he'll come around.

When we were done Colin was mowing the front hillside and Buck and I just stopped to watch him. We were fairly close (20 feet or so) but Buck didn't care. He seems to be getting more mellow about things . . . not that he was every overly excited, but I have sensed some tension at times.

We'll see if I have time to ride tomorrow!

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