Tuesday morning was another early one. Huck had an odd potty emergency at 5:30, and then Liam woke up and needed some ibuprofen, and I went to wash my hands and found that we had no water. The pumphouse door had been left open and the pipes were frozen. So I went on a journey outside in the cold to find a heater, didn't find it, went into the attic, found one, and plugged it in. By then I was awake. The pipes thawed eventually.
Today Liam stayed home again, but he wasn't feeling too terrible. I let him play outside for a while. That might have been stupid. But I did insist that he wore a coat, and it was about 32 degrees, which seemed warm after the last couple days. And I know how I feel after being sick for a couple days - I want out of the house! So he played by himself, then we played a good game of catch together. He watched me work in the round pen with Scout for a while, but he asks so many questions when I need to be paying attention to what I'm doing, and Scout was being rude to Liam, who was sitting on the top rail of the round pen, so I asked him to find something else to do.
I had a good day with my boys. I should probably say now that I've decided not to do the clicker training. It just isn't for me right now. I don't want to learn a whole new method and retrain all of my horses at this time. I'm already not sure how I'll have time for what I have to do with the horses this year. Clicker people may judge me for quitting and using the dreaded natural horsemanship, but that's okay. I know I'm not beating or otherwise abusing my horses into submission.
Scout got some refresher work in the round pen. We worked on consistent inside turns, gait changes, coming to me, and staying with me as we move around. He has a hard time with that on his right. That's his bad eye (if it's bad - some things he does better on that side). By the end we had made progress but not a lot. He'd eventually drift too far away or get ahead of me. I decided to call what we had good and let him "soak" until tomorrow. When he was drifting, I wondered if maybe he could see me better from a little farther away. I wish I could see how he sees! But I've decided not to make allowances for his eye, other than taking the time it takes to make him comfortable with doing things correctly.
With Tonka I asked him to relax and walk around the round pen, as a warm-up. He has a hard time walking, he'd prefer to trot. So we worked on turns and eventually transitions. He was also cutting away from the rail on the side away from Scout, and getting right on the rail by Scout. He's a little herd-bound to that baby.
Here are my boys. I had to take the picture toward the sun or it wouldn't have had both boys in it. Scout needs to learn patience. :)
I am reading "Countdown to Broke" which at first I didn't like because of the emphasis on the round pen. But lately I've realized that my aversion to circle work has caused me to be kind of half-assed in some areas. So I'm going to do it this way, slowly and carefully, being very sure that I don't progress too quickly or overwhelm my horses.
Speaking of progressing too quickly, I had a lightbulb moment recently. Blogging has been detrimental to my horsemanship. I think it's probably normal to want to get to the next step and be super proud that my horse has done something new, and take pictures to document and share on my blog, but I need to suppress that urge. It's not about me and what I can do with my horses. It's not a race and I don't need to prove myself by hurrying. The only thing I need to keep in mind is my horse, and how he feels about what we're doing, and whether he's ready for the next step.
Which doesn't mean I'll baby them. They have a job to do and lessons to learn in a timely manner. There's a balance that's sometimes hard to find - between making allowances and requiring that they "man up." Because to try to make them comfortable all the time is not going to be good for them at all in the long run. They have to become uncomfortable (in a safe way) and realize that they can come back from that and be okay. Preferably with the human coming out looking pretty smart in the end, so we can gain their trust. :)
I'm babbling, and I'm sure none of this is ground-shaking information to any of you. I just had some humbling realizations lately that made me step back and re-think how I do things with my horses.
Oh - but going back to "Countdown to Broke." This is what I meant to say: he trains the horse to move its hip away when he pulls the rein toward himself (on the ground). Which really confused me at first, having been a "lateral flexion" person who expects the feet to stand still while they bend their neck around. But eventually I came to like the idea. A lot. Rather than training the horse to have a rubber neck that bends around all the way, you're going more with their natural inclination to follow their nose. Which would be much safer than a horse that will put its nose on your boot while you ride, but continue on in the other direction. In a panic situation, mind you. Not that Tonka would do that, but Cisco has.
So, what Tonka and I worked on was connecting his nose to his hip - meaning that when I picked up the left rein his hip would move to the right, and vice versa. Making sure he fully committed, with the left hind hoof crossing in front of the right hind hoof (or vice versa), as we're taught to look for when "disengaging the hindquarters." In the process I realized I've really let a lot of stuff slide. We had a quiet little tune-up session.
Then we rode out of Scout's sight, and back where he could see us, changing up the duration, while he stood tied. He wasn't happy, but he got quieter with each repetition.
I think he's a handsome boy, even if he is naughty.
Before I went to Scout to untie him (he was on a Blocker ring, but he'd tied a knot somehow anyway) I thought about how horses often become more fidgety as you approach them to untie them, looking forward to being untied. I worried that I'd have to leave him tied longer, and I wanted to be done. But as I approached, he'd fidget or paw and I'd stop approaching. He'd stop fidgeting. I'd approach, he'd fidget, I'd stop, he'd stop. I think I only had to stop two or three times before he realized I wasn't coming if he wasn't standing still. He really is smart.
So - What are your thoughts on connecting the nose to the hip, if you know what I mean? I may not have made sense of it here. I'd like to know who already does this and why, or who thinks it's a bad idea and why. Thank you!