I got the name of a cowboy trainer from a friend. I feel like I've done a decent job of getting on the pony for the first time, working on steering and stop and go, getting her out on the trails and out to new places. But I feel it is time to get some more instruction. I've been happy with the one trainer I'm working with (and I'll continue to work with her), but wanted another perspective from someone who has developed bridle horses. I actually called him up because I'm interested in learning some basic roping skills (with Mac), but after meeting him thought he could also help me with the pony.
New trainer came out on Saturday to help me with my rope, as I seem to always get it twisted. His instruction really helped me - it wasn't anything the other person didn't try to teach me, but I had forgotten since the first lesson; new trainer also changed my technique to use more shoulder swing.
Anyway, this isn't about roping, this is about the pony.
So when NT (new trainer) got to my place, I had just finished grooming Pony and she was tied in her stall. His opinion was that she wasn't far enough along in her training to be tied in her stall - it is too closed-in of a space and she needs to be able to move around more and see more while she's tied. So the first thing he did was help me pick out a tree limb and hang a lead rope with a swivel snap from it (properly tied & knotted). We tied the pony up and left her there while we worked on roping (maybe 20 minutes or so). The tying exercise is actually one I've been wanting to do but didn't know how to set it up so I'm thankful he helped me. The problem I have with tying the pony is that she's impatient and fidgety and paws. Tying her like this doesn't stop that, but it is set up in such a way that she can move around more (bending and turning while she's at it), I don't care that she paws in the sand, she's in the shade, she's close enough to the boys that she can see them but not interact with them, and if they come into their stalls then they go out of her sight and she has to deal with it. So that day we tied her up and left her. And then I did that yesterday again (30 minutes), and then this morning while I worked with Mac (an hour).
When NT was here he helped me with some ground work exercises also. I had mentioned the tarp issues and it just so happens that his "flag" is a shredded tarp, so it was perfect. He swung it all around, next to her, up over head, along her back, over her head, under her belly, up and down her legs, etc. Of course he did both sides. He said she needs a lot of work with that because while she would stand still, she was really in a frozen-with-fear sort of mode - head up, back dropped, muscles tensed, eyes a little buggy. But he looked for places where he could stop and let her relax and soak it in and she got better and better with it. She still needs work with it, though. Then he did some leading exercises and focus/attention exercises that I'd find hard to explain. She was very calm and quiet at the end and he said NOW would be the time to ride her, when she's quiet and focused and relaxed. I said I do some ground work with her sometimes before we ride, but not that extensive and not every time. So now I have a goal.
Yesterday I did the same pattern. Tie her up, practice my roping technique, then go get her and do ground work with my new-and-improved-shredded-tarp-flag. She didn't start off as nervous as the day previous, so there was some improvement already. I looked for every opportunity I could find to give her a rest and let her "shake it off" - head down, big sigh, licking and chewing, and yawning. All were signs that she was feeling better about things. I practiced some of the leading exercises, too. I didn't ride her - just turned her out in the pasture afterward.
Today I did the same pattern again, except I tied her up while I worked with Mac, so maybe about an hour today. She may or may not have been pawing during some of that time (although I didn't see any big trenches in the ground), but she was not doing any screaming, so that was good news! When I was done with Mac, I got Pony and did some ground work like yesterday and she was very good. At one point during a leading exercise, she stopped to check out the tarp hanging from the gate - that's a new one!
She was very quiet and focused and not fidgety at all and I got on with no issues. I had some poles set up in the arena and walked and trotted over those for a bit (both directions). We worked on some big loopy figure eights, and then went outside.
From riding Mac this morning, I knew the back neighbors were out doing a big gardening project. They had some friends there helping, so there were four people shoveling dirt into wheelbarrows and then dumping it in a garden area. She had a startle for a moment, but I let her just stand and look while I petted her and she walked on. The first lap by them was interesting (nothing bad, just stopping and looky), but after that she couldn't have cared less. We did half a lap of trotting in each direction (walking by the people) and what I noticed about her in this ride, after doing the ground work, was how much softer her back felt. She wasn't running/rushing at the trot, she was just nicely trotting along and not bouncing me out of the saddle with her trot. It was just very relaxed. So after our couple of laps, we walked back to the arena and she got BIG PATs and lots of GOOD GIRLs and when I took her saddle off and groomed her she seemed quite pleased and happy.
We're getting ready for a clinic coming up and I felt like these past few days has given me a renewed plan of action.