Monday, December 12, 2011

It started innocently enough.
But then I gave him water after midnight.

And it all went downhill from there."Rrrrawr!"

And then we had a little training session and they all got to share a bit of leftover chicken.Blue's ears don't really stand up, I just kept catching him in that position.

We had another good lesson today. Bella had never been to the arena before and she'd never been around that many horses working, being flagged, coming in and out of the arena, etc. So as I expected there was a lot of tense breathing on her part, and some goosy-ness, but she didn't freak out over anything.

We worked on sending and proper positioning of our bodies while the horses circle us. As the trainer explains it, when the horse is moving around and we aren't asking for a change, we should be pointed at the saddle, where we would be sitting if we were riding. Makes sense. When it comes time to stop our bellybutton points at the hindquarters. I think this naturally happens for us (Bella and I) because I stop moving and she passes to the point where I'm facing her hindquarters, then she disengages and stops to look at me. It really is nice to have a sensitive horse rather than a dull, luggy one.

Going back to the send, she talked about how important it is for us to send our horses into the circle so that they walk forward and we come to the saddle not by human movement, but by moving the horse. We should not try to sidestep or chase our way into the right spot. The horse's feet need to move, and if our feet move the only direction we should be going is forward. If we back up or move sideways we're giving up space to the horse, or even just confusing the horse and ending up with the wrong results.

We passed the test on that one and she suggested we work on walk-trot transitions. This was an excellent exercise to give Bella something to do so that she could come to terms with the scary new surroundings. Before long she was licking and chewing and her ears weren't flicking back and forth trying to take in every little sound. We need to work on the downward transition on her right side. It wasn't going as smoothly as I would have liked since I was having to ask twice and use my rope to back up my request, but we did end it on one that she did very well.

Next we worked on moving sideways, basically a sidepass on the ground. This one she didn't do as well on the left as she did on the right. On her right she just floated sideways. It was beautiful. On her left she'd back up, move her hind end, move her front end, move her hind end again without crossing over, get crooked, and get kind of flustered. We were doing this with her nose pointed at a wall, or in our case panels that stunk of cattle and had distractions attached, so she wasn't focusing well. Although it was interesting how none of that bothered her when I was on her right side. We'll work on that one some more here at home too. And I'm hoping to make another trip to the arena this week some time.

When the others mounted up I did some "friendly game" with the flag and then got on the mounting block and got her in position and did some more, adding in some rubs and bumps with my legs along her shoulders, flank, and rump, and some slapping and flapping of the saddle. She wasn't worried about that at all and it gave her time to watch the other horses moving around.

She was very wide-eyed and worried about the other riders. When they started trotting it was especially scary. When they had done some other things they came and circled us, making the circle small and large again, going in both directions at both the walk and the trot. Eventually there were three circles around us. The outer circle was one horse who needed to trot very quickly, then the inner two circles were going opposing directions and different speeds. All of this was a lot to take in, but she settled into it pretty well. I stood with her and reassured her, which means a lot to her. She needs someone to put her nose on and ask, "Is this okay?"

When they went to work on indirect rein and hind end disengagement I mounted up and we just stood and watched. I made sure we had lateral flexion in case we ended up needing our one-rein stop. I moved her feet around some, doing what the others were doing, but mostly I just let her take it all in. Then the trainer noticed I had mounted up and she asked us to move around with the other horses. I was absolutely not ready to be in a group of trotting horses, or rather, Bella was not at all ready for that. So we just walked around with John and Scout and then got close enough to pet each other's horses.

It was an excellent experience for Bella, and I was so proud of her. What a girl! I was also extremely thankful to the others for taking the time to help us out. It's so good to have a group of people to depend on and to have fun with.

When I got home there were eight bald eagles right next door. As far as I can tell from my pictures, they were all adults except two. Pretty neat. They were eating something large and dead. Probably a deer, since it's not calving time yet.

This picture has 4 of the adults, but one is hiding. They were all "talking" to each other in loud peeps and squeals. It was pretty neat.

And here's my only equine photo of the day.
Tonka, who through a big squealing, rearing fit in the pasture when we brought "his" horses home. He's not in their pasture, so he had to throw his fit from afar.

Well, it's been a big day and so now I bid you goodnight!


Margaret said...

I just lOVE getting to know the correct body language to communicate effectively with my horses. It is my favorite part of NH!. Sounds like you are too.

froglander said...

Sounds like a good day!