Monday, November 9, 2009

A long weekend with several realizations

I think its fitting that I have this little palomino now, while I have been spending time in the classrooms at Head Start. My volunteer work and my riding feel like they are on the exact same page. I work with 3-5 year olds in a pre-school environment several times a week, and sometimes I feel this kids are the human form of this palomino. It reminds me that its just not fair to really expect much, but that its important to have a firm guiding hand in the education process.

 Many of these children come from extremely impoverished households, with many whose parents are involved in gang life. Often during Bingo these kids can't identify the number they draw, but they can match it to the ones on their boards. I find that it is the same week after week as well. In the time that I have been working with these kids, and the time that I have been working with this pony, I feel as though both have made the same amount of progress.

 The kids still don't recognize numbers, and the pony still doesn't travel straight under saddle. Learning is a process, and with a pony that has been so unfairly shorted of the experience she should have had during her three, four and five year old years, it will take time to undo the negative experiences and build them into positive ones. I am confident though, that with time she will grow to love her job, grow to love all the pampering that horses in my care receive, and grow to love some little girl who wants her first pony. I just need to continue reminding myself that she has had minimal exposure to humans, and even less positive exposure.

So because the weather was absolutely gorgeous, 75+ both days, I was able to give the little one a bath on Saturday. I spent the morning at Fellowship Farm watching Sarah compete in the Training Level Test One class. I then came back and worked the little beast before giving her her first real bath. I had tried to bathe her the first weekend she was here, but it was a little chilly and she was really skittish. So on Saturday I just didn't make a big deal out of it and I scrubbed her from head to toe, using the hose on full water pressure. She wasn't happy about it at first, but wasn't terrified the way she usually is - there was no rearing or even much jigging around.

I then went to sit on the trampoline while encouraging her to graze. She was a little bit terrified of the trampoline, but I just sat there not making a big deal out of it, while she stared at me like I had seven heads.

On Sunday I went out to lesson with Anne, and had an interesting ride on Moose, a horse that is nothing like the type I would normally pick to ride. I schooled lots of lead changes, finally figuring him out by the end. Since I have been teaching lead changes lately rather than sitting and waiting for them on an automatic horse, I ask too much and exaggerate the question more than I should. For an eq class that would lose me a lot of points. It was nice to jump again though, something I haven't done since we sold Zena, so my position isn't too rusty. Moose has a nice round jump when he is taken to the right spot, and in the long gymnastics we did (bounce, two strides, one, graduated one, bounce) he tended to get caught up on that last bounce. Anne wanted me to stay out of his way though and let the bounce do its job, and since he is a smart horse, he eventually figured it out and rated himself without much help from me over the fence between the ones.

After the lesson Leah and I went out to Grayson's and played with the little beastie. Leah was able to see what I had been talking about and we laughed at the pony's quirks.

Interestingly, I feel as though the same lesson I keep repeating day in and day out is being met with stubbornness, and as Jim Bob mentioned, its stubbornness that is generally bred into the cow horses and ponies. I have eliminated the possibility for pain by removing the bit from her mouth, and I am letting that cut on the side of her mouth heal while instead using the rawhide side pull bridle.

Today, the most frustrating occurrence was when she drifted ever so slightly into the fence, trapping my leg between her body and the fence. I am aware that she tried the same thing with Heath last Wednesday, so this action promptly resulted in a poke with my spur into her right side. I did it to make a point, but she made a point of being so surprised that she reared, despite the tie down. The rearing is promptly rewarded with a swift knock on the poll, as a simulation of hitting a ceiling when she rears. Luckily, I do believe she is getting the point, as her rearing has been cut down more than half in frequency, even in the cross ties. After getting knocked in the poll she just stood stock still while receiving many praises for me for not going up again after getting knocked. That is an important lesson for both her development and for my safety.

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