When I got to the barn the horses all ignored me. I let Pandora out to the alley and opened the gate so Big Guy and Little Girl could be together, then went to clean the pony paddock. About the time I was wrapping up that, ZZ finally noticed me – ears went alert!! – and she trotted on over. I let her through but instead of hanging in the alley with her boy R she wanted to be with me.
Really? Are you ready for an adventure? Sure she said. I hoped she wouldn’t regret the invite.
While I groomed her, I kept leaning over. She still isn’t quite sure about all this but is allowing me to put more weight on her back. This time she took a step forward and I just slowly slide off (my belly was over her back). She was a bit shocked by that but overall handled it okay.
Because of her temperment I am taking this very slowly. She still pins her ears when I take too much liberty with her. The point being is that I’m shaping personality as well as moving her along on her basic skills list.
Talking of attitude, I’ve moved her into the Roundpen training. With this, I have some specific goals in mind – because if you’ve read my Roundpen series – you know that I am not totally sold on this method.
1.) At three, I feel it’s safe to work her on a circle for short periods of time. To do so any younger would have put her leg bones at risk.
2.) She needs to learn to sustain her trot longer and in better rhythm. I would rather she do this at liberty but working in the large arena enables her to get away from me too easily.
3.) The smaller space makes it easier for me to apply pressure/body language (or whatever you want to call it) upon her. It’s like two boxers in the ring – I am her focus and sometimes (in her mind) opponent.
4.) At liberty and in such close quarters, it is easier to observe her movements. For instance, today I could clearly see that on the counter-clockwise circle she puts her nose to the outside. This shows a crookedness that I want to straighten out now.
People have a funny reaction to the use of the word “pressure” in horses. I’ve been meaning to write some essays about that but that’s for another day. In a roundpen, the trainer has the ability to put quite of bit of pressure – mental and physically – upon the horse. I’ve discussed the basics in the Roundpen series , however, to go further, this involves feel and why some people are just total idiots with roundpens (chasing their horses, cracking their whips, throwing their bodies around), while others balance what the horse needs and gives only that.
Inevitably, a horse like LG/ZZ is going to go ballistic and just show what she can give you. When I forced her to go her least favorite direction (counter clockwise) , she did a huge sideways spook at the gate (“ooh I’m scared! NOT!”) tried to bulge into my space (not happening lady), and then took off giving some of the bucks that always receives a little quite, “my” from viewers.
This is the time you would relieve all pressure and just let her blow off steam. As long as she doesn’t come at me, she can do whatever she wants. I also wanted to see how quickly she could settle down and that was pretty good.
All of this was combined with clicker training. When she did one round at trot – click; then I asked for two rounds before click; and then finally three rounds. The point being is that she gives up way too early on the trot and just plods along. Time to start working off some of that round belly she’s got.
She has such a beautiful head carriage – so natural and balanced. I want to keep that – and it worries me if I have her under another rider what will happen to it, as people love to crank their horses down so much. We shall see if I decide to send down to the trainer in the spring.