I’ve got a busy week coming up. I’m putting the finishing touches on my presentations for Equine Affaire and getting ready to travel down to Springfield, MA for that, so I’ve no time for a thoughtful and carefully crafted blog. But I don’t want to leave this site blank for a week, so I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to.
The donkeys are now letting me – and enjoying – having their legs rubbed gently with a cactus cloth. I’m beginning to be able to rub off old crud and restoring their skin to health. I’ve gotten to this point with only a handful of sessions. No treats. No clicks. Just astute observation of what they’ll tolerate, and asking them to tolerate just a little more, all the while letting them learn that what I’m doing actually feels good. See how the donkey on my left is waiting her turn? She’s not always this patient! They do trade places frequently to get my attention and leg rubs.
I helped a client with her young horse who had a trailering accident and got stuck under the butt bar. The mare still loads nicely, but once in the trailer can’t stay put and backs out. She’s a smart and quick horse, something the owner values, but in this case we need to have them both learn a new default – one of relaxation and patience. I helped them to find that place and they both settled into an rewarding place of calm. Next will be to transfer that bit of zen into the trailer.
My jumping trainer suggested that perhaps my over-achieving horse would learn to go over a cross-rail with an appropriate leap (and not a huge bound) if we worked him from the ground instead of under saddle. Let him figure it out without me interfering. I’ve trained Tonka to stay and come, so I set up a chute. I put Tonka in a stay at one side of the pole while I walked to the other, then I called him over. I did this first with a pole on the ground, then one side raised, and then both.
Tonka doesn’t look like an enthusiastic jumper here, does he? The problem is that for safety’s sake, I’ve never taught him to come at speed. But I have taught Tonka that if he’s loose in a ring, and if I say go, go! that he can gallop around. So I did that, and as he played, I walked towards him, using my body to suggest where he should go. He took the hint (I was quite far away from him!)
It doesn’t appear that this sort of ground work is going to teach him anything about jumping only as much as he has to 🙂
On Sunday I went on an organized trail ride with Kim and her good mare, Denver. It was a chance to go on trails that we otherwise wouldn’t have access to. See some new country. Meet other trail riders. We took the “short” loop – of 8.6 miles.
We rode down dirt roads, through deep mud, across a busy road, through a beautiful stand of hemlock trees, past a junkyard/boat storage yard, and over a bridge. Our horses were willing and able. There were about 30 riders and many passed us. Sometimes we caught up to a few. Tonka did NOT like it when horses were in sight but not with us. There was head shaking from annoyance. He likes to be in front and setting the pace (which is too slow for many, especially those efficient and zippy gaited horses.) As Kim and I were on the last mile of the ride, two teenagers passed us. They’d done the full 16 miles. They cheerfully said hello then trotted off. Teenagers and their game horses! I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment after almost 9 miles. My thighs are feeling it too…
Back at the trailer, Tonka looked satisfied but tired. Mud and new experiences are exhausting. He’s getting a day off today.
What were you up to last week? Tell me in the comments!