Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pony's first outing

Yesterday was Princess Fancy Pants's first outing away from home! We've of course been working on trailering, but I don't really count those excursions as outings because they were just drives around the block and back home.

Yesterday we went to another barn for a schooling session. I brought all my tack, not knowing if she'd be quiet enough for working with the trainer on getting on and leading around - but better to be prepared!

Well, it wasn't a getting-on-and-leading-around kind of excursion.

PFP loaded up and trailered there just fine (good girl!). When she stepped off the trailer, though, I think she was surprised to be in a new place and very looky! We had a short walk around to see the horses in their paddocks (and there were two adorable minis that she took a hard look at), and then went out to the arena area which shared a fence line with the horses turned out in the big pasture for lunch. That was pretty exciting until another trailer pulled up and unloaded a pony and THAT was very exciting. Luckily, the facility had a round pen, so I put her in the round pen to let her get it out. She leaped in the air, squealed, ran around a bit, and I picked up the lunge whip to use to get her attention (not by making her run forward, but just as a visual/auditory aid . . . along with stomping my feet or jingling my keys - I was trying to remember things from the Harry Whitney clinic I did last year). It seemed to work because she then settled and came to me for some security. I talked to the trainer and decided to just work her on my own for a little while since this was such a new experience for her. I went to my trailer and got my bridle and lunging cavesson and went back to the round pen where she was happy to see me.

She followed me around for a little bit and I gave her pats all over and then put on the bridle and cavesson and had a short little w-t-c lunge in each direction. She had settled down such that she was listening to me and responsive to my voice commands, so I called it a day on that. Took off the bridle and cavesson and gave her more pats and just stood with her for a bit.

I left her to go to the office to pay my haul-in fee and when I came back, the worker-guy was bringing in the pasture horses for dinner, so that was very exciting. I asked the trainer to help me load, just in case (I've heard stories where people bring their horses and they load up just fine on the first leg of the trip, but won't load up when it is time to go home!). Turns out, her assistance wasn't needed. Princess Fancy Pants walked right on the trailer, I closed up the doors and home we went!

She got a ton of cookies and carrots in her treat bucket when we got home and she went straight for her hay I had waiting for her.

All in all, it was a great first outing! I'll have to see if I can do that once a week to get her used to going new places - at least while the weather is still nice!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I did it! I sat on the pony!!!!!

Tuesday I got on the pony!!!!!

It wasn't planned. I started off by doing a little lunge session with her, mostly working on getting square halts and making nice circles at the trot without tossing her head around (which she only does in the corner closest to the barn, sometimes with a squeal thrown in for good measure). We split the work with the first 10 minutes leading and halting and squaring up in the indoor arena, then another 10 minutes of w-t-w transitions in the outdoor arena. I had saddled her for her schooling session and she wasn't acting spooked by the flopping stirrups. I felt like her head was in the game and she was being really good so I took her inside, got my helmet, went to the arena and put reins on her bridle (she was wearing a lunging cavesson and bridle/bit) and walked over to the mounting block. Heretofore we've been working on rein aids with me walking next to her holding the reins and doing basic flexions, turns, and walk-halt-walk transitions. I think I wrote about her disliking an earlier bit, and so I tried a couple others; the current one which she seems to like is a Myler eggbut wide barrel comfort snaffle.

So back to my story. I brought her to the mounting block which is in front of the mirrors (a tip from someone) and squared her up. She wanted to take a step forward and a little "no" with the reins and she stood perfectly still. I put a foot in the stirrup and put pressure on it. Did that a few times. Then foot in the stirrup and stood up and patted her neck; did that a few times and she was still. Then foot in the stirrup, stood up, and leaned over her back a few times. No reaction. Then foot in the stirrup, stood up, leaned over her back and swung my other leg halfway up. No reaction.

Took a little break and walked around the arena with much praise and then back to the mounting block.

I went for it.

Foot in the stirrup, stood up, leaned over to pat her all over, swung my leg over, sat my butt down, put my other foot in the stirrup, sat up. Not a twitch from the pony. She stood there. I sat for maybe 10 seconds, dismounted, gave her much, much, much, much praise and good girls and then put her back and groomed her and gave her a bunch of cookies. I think she was quite pleased with herself!

I've been working with a trainer and we've talked about working toward this and ideally it probably would have been smart to have a ground person, but I was just in the moment and she felt like she was quiet and steady and could handle it.
OMG, I am so happy and proud of my little pony!!!!!!!

I wasn't planning on doing this on that day so didn't have a camera set up to take any video, unfortunately. I tell you, for that 10 second of sitting on the pony for the first time, I was on cloud nine the whole day!

The "hey, you're not supposed to be there" double-take

The other day I put the horses in the pasture for just a few hours as Colin and I had an early evening event to go to. I was rotating them to a pasture that had been resting for a couple weeks and before I put them out, I thought "is that back gate closed? It must be because Colin didn't put the handlines out." The horses were in two pastures that are connected by a gate and they prefer the back pasture; the connecting gate was open so they could have both pastures, but there is also an access gate to the back pasture only.

I went about my business cleaning the house and Colin was outside mowing the pasture the horses had just come off of.

I went out to get the horses a couple hours later and did a double-take as I look across the pasture. I'm counting noses and I see Princess Fancy Pants in the pasture. Check. I see Mac eating grass . . . but it he in the pasture or on the wrong side of the fence??? Then I see Paddy. IN THE POND. Which is on the wrong side of the fence!

I run into the pasture where Colin was mowing (just across the driveway from where the horses are so I can still see what they are doing) and wave my arms frantically. He's got headphones on so just waves back. NO!!!!! STOP!!!!! He takes them off and I'm yelling "Paddy is in the pond!!!" So he gets off the tractor and says not to panic, we have to remain calm. We grab halters and go out there to get the horses. I give him Mac's halter, I take Paddy's and the pony's, just in case she decides she wants to leave the pasture.

There's Paddy in the pond. Chest deep. Standing there and happily munching grass on the rim of the pond. Poor Colin, I think he thought I meant that Paddy was somehow stuck in the pond thrashing and drowning. I just meant help me get the horses out of where they shouldn't be and put them where they should be.

I don't know why the pony didn't join them when they wandered out of the gate - I think because the grass was wet and boggy there and she didn't want to get her princess feet wet, which certainly made things easier for me. But, that also means we need to do puddle-stepping-in work!

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Pony and The Pink Umbrella

Yesterday was a good day of schooling, third day in a row of "work" for the pony. First day (Friday) was a trailer ride, and longer than usual. She was great!

Second day (Saturday) was a trail walk in the BLM and she was great!

Third day (Sunday) was work in the arena followed by some de-spooking work. I've decided to move forward with a different approach of working her in the bit since with the double lunging in the last bit she was getting her tongue over it. Since we're using a new bit, I thought I'd try a different approach so as to give her a good experience with it. We started with our short lunging warm-up and I just used the cavesson and headstall/bit (cavesson for lunging, bit for the next phase). She was very good and picked up the left lead canter on her own (with a little squeal beforehand) and I just let her canter since it was a good transition, she wasn't running around like a crazy pony, and she got the correct lead. We did just a little bit on each side and then I did the bit work.

For working the bit, I first asked for lateral flexions and I released at the slightest give to the bit. When that was nice and soft, we moved on to walking forward. My instinct is to walk closer to her than using the long lines right now, so I held a rein (regular reins, not long reins) in each hand and walked at her shoulder. All we did was walk and turn and stop. Oh, and I did have my dressage whip and I used that on the outside of the circle, like and outside leg, so that if I used the inside rein and she bulged out, I could follow it up with a gentle tap-tap of the "outside leg" to keep her straight. It worked really well! When we had a really good turn, I quit on that, put her back in her stall, groomed her, and then let her go out in her paddock for a little bit.

When I came back to let the horses out for lunch, I did a little de-spooking with a pink umbrella I bought just for this purpose. I went into her paddock (it it good sized at maybe 100 x 100, so she has room to move and get away if she's troubled) opened it and closed it far from her. She was pretty good with it until Mac spooked from afar, then she thought she should spook, too. Soon enough, though, curiosity won out and she came up to see what it was all about. Armed with cookies, I gave her a cookie for touching the closed umbrella. Then I opened it and she spooked and trotted away. But then she came back. Eventually, I could open and close it and she'd stand still but spook in place. Then I started walking with it and she followed me (lured by the promise of cookies) and eventually she followed me while I opened and closed it and she didn't run away and kept walking. Good pony! Finally, I wanted to get a picture of how cute she was so I got my phone and hung the umbrella in the tree and got these pictures.

Her neck looks oddly shaped due to the angle, but I'm pretty sure you can see how cute she is no matter what!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Training video

Princess Fancy Pants is coming along nicely and we got our steering back in our last lesson and subsequent schooling sessions - yay! The newest thing to come up, though, that I want to nip in the bud quickly, is her getting her tongue over the bit. I noticed this while I was observing her being double-lunged, which is why I went back to working off of just the lunging caveson for a couple weeks. But when I noticed it again at the last lesson, we decided to change bits. I started her out in a KK Ultra that was used by my TB. Her mouth was quiet enough in it when she would just hold it in her mouth, but when reins were attached (and the more work she did - meaning trot and canter), she would open her mouth and get her tongue over it. We stopped mid-lesson to try another bit - a rubber single-jointed snaffle. She hated it even at a stand still. So we switched to the bit I used when I first got Mac going, which is a KK Duo. She was quiet in that at the stand still and at the walk, and it was time for our lesson to be over anyway, so we stopped on that good note.

Always wanting to improve myself and my feel and timing and training skills, I want to look at what I can do to be better and know if there's something I need to change. I decided to take a different tactic for our next training session. I started thinking about what the double-lunging means in terms of bit pressure in the mouth (or on the lunging caveson, for that matter) and how it affects her way of going or understanding the aids, and what kind of leverage is activated when the lines are run through the surcingle, etc. I am in the thinking and pondering stage, and so in the meantime tried something else yesterday.

We started off with lunging with a saddle on (off of the caveson, not the bit). This is the second time I've done this with her, and even though the stirrups were run up, they still made a flapping noise. The first time I did it, she wanted to stop whenever she heard the noise, so we worked on forward. This time, she carried her head up, ears turned back, and sort of looking around, so she's a bit distracted. But one thing at a time. The goal was to go forward with the flapping sound, and work on voice commands. We just started cantering on the lunge, so adding voice commands for that, as well as picking up the correct lead (she favors the right).

After a brief lunge, I dropped the stirrups and purposefully thumped each at her side, to mimic a leg aid and get her to step over. Great. Only had to do that a couple times on each side.

Next we worked with the bit. I took off the lunge line and attached reins to the bit and worked on little flexions first, just basic giving to the bit. Then we walked - me beside her shoulder, a rein in each hand, and worked on turning with an opening rein and halting with both reins. Did that for a short while in both directions and I was pleased with that.

The last thing we did, which I didn't get on video because of where I was in the arena, was to have her stand at the mounting block while I put one foot in the stirrup and added some pressure. Just enough to be on my tip-toes with my standing leg, not enough to actually stand in the stirrup. I did that on each side and she stood quietly, so I called it a day.

We've talked about getting her going under saddle, but I really want to a part of being on her at an early stage and right now I'm injured (not sure what - maybe either a muscle strain or tendonitis in the hip, but I'm working with doctors to try to figure it out) and not able to ride. So I'm thinking I'll be putting off getting her going riding for another few months. We'll see.