Sunday, December 6, 2009

A day of firsts

I'm so proud of the little mare! Sticky (like Post-It, as Kaitlyn has affectionately named her - you're welcome!) had many firsts today, and what a good girl she was! Though I haven't been spending nearly as much time with her as I should, what with volunteering, classes and the heavy workload my teachers have decided are appropriate, combined with the fact that I'm not getting paid to ride her in any way, has led to her becoming a thing on the backburner.

Today, however, was the first time we cantered under control, that she stood while I mounted, jumped a cross rail under saddle, ground drove, and long lined.

I know this sounds like a lot to introduce to a horse in just one day, but I did go out twice today. Before I got on I decided to set up some trotting poles because she has consistently been working well at the trot. She is finally moving straight, responding to my voice commands, and staying in control. I decided after 15 minutes of walking, trotting, and transitions, that we could start playing over the poles. I did a similar exercise with her that I did with Fox over Thanksgiving, and after those poles I halted on a straight line with just a "woah" and body language. After three or four times through she got it. After she was consistently moving through straight I got off and set up the smallest possible cross rail - probably 12" high. We only did this twice. She picked up her feet, and didn't have a melt down - I was happy with that.

I then decided that it is time for her to learn to canter quietly. I have decided that the command for this is a kissing noise, though I also use my outside leg while I bend her to the inside. Eventually she will be able to canter with just a little leg and the kiss from a trot, walk or halt. Right now she explodes into the canter, and proceeds to gallop for several strides before I can get through to her at all. Once on a 20m circle though, I could see the light bulb go on - she balanced on her hind end and actually gave me a really nice canter. I decided to quit there and cool her out. I was so happy with her!

Later on, after Recruitment Practice, I had an hour and half between that and Chapter, so Sarah and I went back out to the barn. She had to do Moose's 15 minutes of walking, and I decided I would play with Sticky. I tacked her up again (no more of that rearing bull sh*t - yay!) and set her up with one lunge line on either side of her body. I ran the lines through the girth and attached them to the bit, and I had my whip in my right hand.

Turns out I didn't really need the whip, and the pony was very confused as to what was going on. As I began ground driving her (think like carriage-driving without the carriage) she quickly figured out that the best way to avoid the pressure that the lines put on either side of her body was to move straight. Light bulb! As she calmed down and walked forward, turning when asked, circling when asked, I began to back off and keep her on a circle. I came to the inside and continued to drive her with loose lines. The outside line fell right over her hocks, and the inside line encouraged her bend without loosing the connection to her hind end (hence both lines). As she began to understand what was going on she quietly began to long line at the walk and trot. What an accomplishment for the little beast. Maybe being a driving pony is her calling! And if not, it is still a skill that all horses benefit from, and that will help her continue to grow into a sane and fun kids pony.

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