Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring in the Northwest

It's here! I have bulbs coming up in my garden, my lawn already needs to be mowed, the frogs are frantically serenading each other and the weather can't decide if it wants to rain/snow/hail/be sunny. Oh, and the horses are shedding madly. Yep, it's spring alright.

Yesterday was one of the nicer days of the entire week. It rained a bit and was cloudy with some beautiful sunbreaks. Still not getting above 50, but that's better than being down in the 30's. It had rained most of the week and I didn't feel like fighting Ketah and the mud (either of which alone is bad enough) so thought I'd do some training.

I brought Sati out and brushed her. We're still working on letting me brush the backs of her hind legs but she's getting better. She's also just on grass hay now and not making such a mess of herself (despite passionate affirmations to the contrary, alfalfa is not really that great). I also picked up all four feet. She still wants to be a putz about the hind feet, but not nearly so much. It's not a fight anymore, I just pay close attention because she may decide to dance and fall down.

This day I put all of her tack on, grabbed the long lines and headed for the round pen. Aside from not making the same mistake twice, there was another horse in the arena who is poorly trained and several young girls who have gotten dragged by him before. I prefer not to take silly chances with my young one. After a few circles without lines, and some bucking and kicking I asked her to whoa. That lesson she does very well. I put the lines on her and we started doing some circles at the walk. This is all about learning how to handle the bit. I know it was confusing the first couple circles. Towards the end of the lesson she was walking the circle and changing direction relatively well. She has a tendency right now to get confused and stop when I ask her to go in a specific direction, especially if she really wanted to go the other way. Despite that we did 10 or 15 minutes of this, then I let her off the lines and reminded her of her basic manners. Which did involve a lesson in not stopping at the fence nearest Ketah or kicking in my general direction when I asked her to move...Afterwards I made her stand, tied while I worked Ketah in the arena for a bit. That drives her nuts, she was sweaty by the time we finished.

Today was threatening to storm all day. Dark clouds and wind. However, by 3:00 it still hadn't rained and I didn't feel like working anymore so I thought I could do a new lesson with the young one. A very important lesson for a would-be trail horse. Going out alone. Horses are, by nature, herd animals and they are prey as well. This means that instinctually they seek safety in other horses. One of the things we humans require of our domesticated horses, is to learn to be alone. They should depend on just themselves and their rider on the trail.

Thus far Sati has been away from the barn only when I pony her from Ketah. So she has always had a calm, older horse to make her feel safe. This time I asked her to walk by herself, on a slighty stormy looking day with quite a bit of wind (waiting for perfect weather is pointless here). We didn't get very far really. Down the long driveway and maybe two blocks through the neighborhood. Everything was a little scary, horse running at the fence to see her, a fence making noise in the wind, a car driving by. She wasn't perfect by any stretch. There was quite a bit of dancing and balking. But I remember Ketah at this age. If anything Sati was relying on me more, which is great.

I had planned on doing a loop that she's been on with Ketah before. But with her being slightly freaked out and this being her first time, we turned around and went back. Dancing and balking the whole way. But she was trying very hard to listen to me. She gets lots of points for that.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Still here

But not much to tell. I just spent the last two weeks in frantic grant writing mode. This is good for me to learn...but hard to do so quickly. We finished last Thursday and I rode last Friday, which was the only sunny day we have had in the last 7 days now. Ketah and I had a great time! I decided not to take Sati, I know Ketah gets sick of her and I thought a real ride would be best for us both. I was right. We spent about 3 or 4 hours riding, found some new trails, got lost, and still managed to get home.

I was relaxed enough after that to work Sati too. This was mostly in the nature of reminding her of what she already knew. So I put on all the gear and we started doing a little bit of ground driving in the newly fenced arena. I probably shouldn't have done that, I was just a little too excited. I think the arena was too big for her, though we did manage to walk around a bit. But she also managed to get scared and bolt. I got her back under control and decided the round pen was a better idea. Rather than stress her out further I just put her in the round pen and asked her to do a few circles (no long lines) and then quit. For all of that, she was still pretty calm and happy afterwards.

Maybe this weekend we can do some more. We'll see though, between crazy spring weather and a paper I should've written two months ago we may not get a chance.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Smart horses rock!

Let me start by saying that this was a pretty awful weekend for all sorts of reasons. Thursday my boss very energetically (he does everything as if he's had 10 cups of coffee and that's probably not far off) declared that we were going to drop everything to write a 30 page grant in 2 weeks! While 30 pages is not much for a grant (especially for the money we hope to get out of it) 2 weeks is crazy short time to do it in. And of course while it's nice to assume we can drop everything...I can't. There's a meeting I must host starting Thursday through Saturday, interviewees coming that I can't just put off (how rude would that be??) and we started a new employee today. It's crazy.

So my poor horses are going to get the short end of the stick (along with my SO of course, but he's more understanding). I decided that this weekend I *must* work with them because next weekend might be out.

It's cloudy and cool. Sati hasn't been worked in over a week, that's my bad, and Ketah is uninterested in me. Figured the young one needed the work more and boy did she. First we had apparently reverted about leading nicely. She was jumping and balking and threatening to rear. My answer is to make her do circles which helps to a point.

I finally get her tied up and I'm cleaning her and she hasn't calmed down at all. She wants to dance and swing at the end of the rope. As usual the backs of her hind legs are dirty and I'm working towards them. She's all twitchy and as soon as I hit some of the dried stuff stuck to her hair she kicks.

This is bad behavior. She's about 750 pounds after all.

I go back to working over her entire body and approach her legs again and now she wants to swing her butt in my direction and kick out. At this point she hasn't actually tried to point and kick, instead she's sort of body checking me. However...

This is very bad behavior and we have to correct it.

So for the next 30 minutes we go rounds with no clear winner. For future reference you should never do this. I was already in a poor mood when we started and you really can't win a fight like this with a horse but I got myself into it and I had to get out without losing fully.

Lucky for me my sister called and we talked for a while. Good for me, you should really step away from these sorts of situations when you can't deal with them. Good for Sati because I made Sati stand tied up by herself the entire time. This is also good for her as she hates being without Ketah. When I got off the phone I started working her on the line in circles. We had to have a few reminders about “whoa” and not trying to run over the top of me, but she remembered pretty quick. After that I brushed her and put her back in her pen.

I had decided that I really needed to go for a trail ride today. Sati was to go with Ketah and I because I finally had a pair of boots for her front feet. I started cleaning her up and she stood quietly if a little twitchy even while I brushed the backs of her legs and picked her feet. Score 1 for smart horses! Once she was cleaned up I saddled Ketah and got ready to head out. Unfortunately for me the day was shaping up to be stormy.

Rain is uncomfortable, but we can deal with it. Wind however...In Colorado it's annoying and sometimes impossible to ride in. Here high wind can be very dangerous because the trees are all very close, very tall and don't have very deep roots. Branches and whole trees come down very quickly and easily. By the time the wind had died down it was sprinkling. I headed out and hoped it would stop raining. We hadn't made it 30 minutes out (just past the trail head really) and we were all soaked. Ketah was being a total pain, but I think Sati was having a lot of fun. She was thinking her way through all of the obstacles very carefully. Better than Ketah in fact. We went over some sandbags (Ketah jumped, Sati stepped over), around a large log and through a narrow gate.

I asked Ketah to trot then canter. Sati kept up the whole time in a trot! That girl has legs! Finally tired of dealing with Ketah's stubborness we turned to go back. Back at the barn Sati continued to stand (mostly) quietly at the tie rail and let me brush her all over again. So on the balance, I'd say the weekend was a good one for training! Sati is going to be a great trail horse. She likes to think her way through things instead of running away.

I really can't wait to ride her.