Sunday, May 2, 2010

Slow and steady wins the race

Some could accuse me of going too slowly with my horses and they would probably be right. I like to make sure that the basics are really solid before moving on to the next thing, whatever that may be. I suppose that's why I haven't progressed too far up the levels in my riding career, sigh.

I do think this is important, though, when working with Buck. I want him to have a really solid foundation and trust in me (and me in him!) before we go too far in our adventures. Surely I could stuff him in the trailer, take him to the local park where I mostly go trail riding, and hop on and off we go. But I want him to listen to me in all aspects - go, whoa, turn, wait, change gait, etc. Things that sound so simple, and in one respect are, but if the shit hits the fan, he's got to know to trust in and listen to me. So we take baby steps.

Today we progressed to him being in the cross ties and me walking away. At first he wanted to follow me but I worked with him so that I could go farther and farther away with him just standing there. That was a good lesson to learn. We also worked on me handling his ears, as he doesn't like one of them to be touched.

We went for a ride in the arena and again worked at the walk and trot. It is very windy here today and there's a tarp covering some farm equipment in an area that he can see from the arena. With the wind the tarp was blowing around and he did look at it but didn't spook or act scared. This is the kind of reaction that I'm hoping my baby steps will develop - looking is ok, running in the other direction is not.

We worked at the walk and trot on light contact, doing transitions and figure eights and transitions through the figure eights. Again he was better than the last time and so we called it quits after about 25 minutes. I opened the gate from his back (better this time but he still wants to go right through it, which I can't fault him for, as if we were on the trail we'd open and go straight through - this is just a different rule for a different situation) and we went on a short trail ride down our irrigation ditch.

Today was the first day that I've taken him down the ditch. There were lots of rocks to look at and scenery of a neighbor's pasture, the sound of people in their yards, and of course the wind! There was a point on the trail where he wanted to stop so I gave him a little tap with the dressage whip (which he did not care for - I got a tail swish for that) and he marched right along. Lo and behold what he balked at was some sort of skeleton on the trail! I was not actually looking down to see what caught his eye until we were practically on top of it. It looked like mostly ribcage was left and I couldn't make out what it might have been. It could have been a small deer, which would be the most likely animal. Wonder what got it?

I do notice that Buck is a little more alert than the other horses - I think it probably comes with the territory for a mustang (which is what I've heard as well). His survival in the wild would depend on his ability to pay attention to everything going on around him.

We finished our training session with more trailer work. He will now easily follow me on with no hesitation. Today after he followed me on I put the chest bar up (it is removable in my trailer) and hooked his halter up. Then I'd unhook him and ask him to back and I'd slide under the chest bar to go out with him. Then we went on a couple more times with me ducking under the chest bar after leading him in, then hooking him up, and we'd just stand there. So far so good. Now I need to build on that further to get him to stand hooked up without me being right there. Baby steps.

I may ask Colin if he can take a couple pictures of us riding over the next few days so I can see what we look like!

Oh, while walking back to the house from the ditch I saw our fierce little hunter, Monkey Beans, hiding in the bushes.

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