Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fear and extrapolation

One definition of extrapolate from Merriam-Webster is thus: to predict by projecting past experience or known data

Yesterday I took Pony for a trail ride on the BLM. We haven't been out there since last year before the water was turned off. There's an "inside track" trail between two irrigation ditches that I can do that is about a 45- to 60-minute ride. If I cross one of the ditches, the world of trails opens up to thousands of acres and there's more to explore than I can comfortably do with my back/hip issues. I regularly take Mac on the other side of the ditches and there are loops of various lengths that give me different options depending on how long I want to be out (2 hours is about my max). I really want to get Pony over there because it is good conditioning, it is nice for a different change of scenery, and well, I just want to! BUT! Pony will not cross the ditch when the water is running.

Since the water isn't on yet, I thought it would be a great time to take her over there and cross the dry ditch and explore other areas.

Pony and I went down the main trail and came to the "water crossing" spot - it is flatter and more open than other areas on the ditch, so no ditch-jumping is required. Pony took a look at it, put her nose down, snorted, and planted her pony feet. She was not going near the ditch! I thought it very interesting, as she seemed to extrapolate that she wouldn't want to cross there because she remembers there being water there and for some reason she thought that was A Bad Thing. I turned her away and reapproached a couple times, but she was not interested. I remembered back to the Bryan Neubert clinic of last year where one of his mottos was to get the thing done but let them do it their way. Usually I wouldn't get off during a ride if something was going hairy, but I thought that this time maybe Pony needed a little extra help from me, so I got off.

I took the reins over Pony's head and walked forward so I was standing IN the ditch. She put her nose down, sniffed, took a bite of grass, and tentatively took a step in . . . and then both feet . . . and then she walked through and out the other side. Much praise was given to Pony, although she did let me know she expected a cookie on the other side and I wasn't smart enough to bring any with me.

I had walked her through the ditch back and forth maybe 8-10 times until she comfortably just walked right through. Then I got on and did it under saddle a few times and she was great.

We continued down the main trail to the next spot that I use for water crossing (there's a nice big loop between the two crossings on the "other" side of the ditch). This crossing spot is flatter and wider and the ground is different. Where the first crossing has a sandy bottom, this one has a flat lava rock bottom. I didn't get off for this one, just encouraged her, gave her the reins, and grabbed my pommel just in case. No problem. She did put her head down, but she didn't try to turn away or back up - she was just cautious in her first few steps. We went back and forth a couple times on that one, too. Lots and lots of praise!

There's one more water crossing that if I can get her over, it will allow me access from a different trail-entry point in the summer when part of the area is closed off for cattle grazing. That ditch is steeper and so I thought it best to get off and lead her over it, first, so she can see me stepping down into it and then walking out of it (in one direction the edge it is steeper than the other). I stepped down into it and walked out and she came right behind me. We went back and forth over that one a couple times and then I got on and we went back the easy way to the main trail. She was great!

It was time to go home so we did some trotting and cantering on the main trail to get back. As we were enjoying ourselves, I had this wonderful thought/feeling go through me. *I* did this. For better or worse, *I* have been the one to train Pony, the one to introduce her to the trails, the one to help her understand trail manners (for example, jigging on the way home is NOT allowed - you may walk with purpose, but you may not jig or get yourself wound up and lose your brain), the one to show her the cows on the trail and to let her stand and look and see and soak in what's going on. I have tried to give my Pony Girl good experiences and some well-rounded basics so far so that we can trailer out to dressage or jumping lessons, go out of state for a cowboy clinic, bring a cowboy to my house, trailer out for her first dressage show, ride out of the arena, go for trail rides, see cows, etc.

It was a very happy and gratifying feeling.

I think I'll go out again today to solidify the ditch crossings we did yesterday.

I hope that she can extrapolate what she figured out about the ditch to apply it to when there's water in it. After all, if she did the reverse and was hesitant with no water, she must be smart enough to figure that when there is water, it is still safe to cross!

Pony Power!

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