Saturday, October 31, 2015

A big ask and a big tell

I was hoping Colin could ride with me this weekend and the only day he has time to ride is today, so today it was.

I haven't ridden the pony in about two weeks, so I wanted to get an idea for how she was feeling by going out a bit earlier than Colin and doing some ground work. Pony was great and perfect, so when Colin came out I thought we might try a trail ride. The wind started gusting up and since my options for trail riding were either in the back of our property where the neighbors have some flying tarps and a swingset, or in a natural environment with no flying tarps, I chose the no-flying-tarp option. But this meant that we'd go across the street to the BLM. I've taken the pony over there lots of times, and Mac has ridden over there lots of times, so I thought it would be the better option.

It was a BIG ask for Princess Fancy Pants. We hand walked the horses over there and through the gate and everyone was just fine. I had Colin mount up first and stay nearby so that the pony wouldn't be distracted by him moving around taking his turn to get ready. That was no problem. Mounting was great, everyone walked off nice and quietly, and we were on our way.

We started off with Colin in front, but Mac has a very laid-back, pokey-horse walk on the trails and pony has a bigger and more forward walk. At one point she trotted off a bit as we had split up just a bit to find the trail (good news, she has a comfortable trot!), but I brought her back to a walk and she was right on Mac's tail. So we took turns with Mac in front and then pony in front. She slowed down a bit when she was in front, not sure if she wanted that responsibility! At one point, I had Mac go in front again and he did a little startle as he scared a buck off from the trees, but nobody had any problems. Pony was a bit fidgety, but I don't blame her. Then Mac sort of startled again - head up, wanting to turn away. At that point I got off the pony and took the lead by hand walking past whatever was bothering Mac. I know what he'll do when he spooks, but I don't know what she'll do and I didn't think it was a good day to come off! So we hand walked for a bit and then I got back on using a big tree stump.

We leap-frogged a bit more, then walked side-by-side for a while. We startled some more deer in the trees a little farther out and pony did a spook. She sort of startled/jumped in place, did a little two-steps-to-the-side spook, and then all was good and we went on our way.

As we got closer to home, the wind was picking up, pony was getting fidgety, and she showed me her "tell" - like in poker - which was a head toss and a squeal. She humped her back a little bit but I growled at her and we went on. I turned her in a circle because we had passed Mac and we walked on. Another tell of a squeal/shake/hump and I growled at her and we went on. A bit of a trot (comfy), squeal, head shake, and I kept her head up, walked on, and decided that I would hand walk her the rest of the way. Since she had momentarily quieted down, I got off, did some walk-halt-walk-stay-out-of-my-space ground work and we made it to the gate.

The wind is GUSTING right now and the horses are out eating lunch. It was a BIG ask for the pony today, and she did a great job. I was on her back longer than I've ever been - probably two short rides of 10 minutes each as I got on and then off and then on and then off again. I think I might do another short ride tomorrow, but in the arena, and start some trot work since she seemed keen on it and not seemingly thrown off guard or off balance by me on her back while trotting.

Glad I made it off of her back of my own free will!

Friday, October 23, 2015

How does she do it?

How does the pony learn when I'm not actively teaching her anything? Meaning, I didn't do anything with her for a week and a half due to having out-of-town guests and various morning appointments and whatnot - and yet when I got on her on Wednesday, she was so good and so much better at steering and moving off the leg than she was the last time I rode her? How does that work?!

The last time I rode her (or did any type of work other than turning out/bringing in each day) was almost two weeks ago. That ride was our little trail ride out back. On Wednesday, we did a schooling session. It has been cold in the mornings, which can mean a fresh horse. We started with a little lunging. I would have completely understood if she wanted to throw in some head-tossing or bucking in there, but she didn't. She was 100% obedient to my requests. We walked over a couple cavaletti (two in a row instead of one on each side of the arena), which was no big deal. We trotted a few circles in each direction and did transitions without nary a marey head-shake. Oh, and it was all with the stirrups down and flapping.

Next I put the long lines on her and we walked around. Her steering was better than ever and we did a couple circles, a couple tear-drop changes of direction, and walk-halt-walk transitions. Her best work yet.

So I decided to ride again. This time I mounted from the off side. She stood still while I got on slowly, waited for me to get settled in the saddle, and walked on when I asked her to and not a second before. She had a nice marching walk (not the drunken sailor walk we started with a few weeks ago), was responsive to my transition requests both up and down (I do a loud sigh/exhale as a verbal cue for a downward transition, and "whoa" is halt), and I could actually use my legs to help steer and it seemed to work! I tried to focus on my timing as I learned from working with Buck Brannaman, and I think it is so much more helpful to the horse than just randomly using a rein at any old time. We walked over the cavaletti, did some circles and figure eights, walk-halt-walk transitions, and I called it a day. It was maybe a 10-minute ride, but it was so good!

This weekend Colin will ride Mac and I'll ride the pony and we'll go out back on the trails again. She's so much fun!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm either brave or stupid or lucky

Since Colin has expressed interest in going trail riding, and since I thought it best for Princess Fancy Pants's first trail ride to be with a buddy, today we saddled up and headed out on the little trails on the back of our property.

First we did just a little walking around in the arena to make sure I had steering (as good as it gets for a pony who has just been backed) and whoa. I thought I'd have Colin lead the way on Mac, since he's the herd leader, and have the pony follow him. Well she had other ideas. She wanted to be in front, presumably so he could check out how cute her butt is. After a couple laps in each direction (and walking over a cavaletti while we were at it), I had Colin open the gate and out we went.

And wouldn't you know it, pony wanted to be in the lead! It was pretty funny! I thought for sure we'd follow Mac since I've regularly ridden him out on those trails, and I've ponied the pony a few times and hand walked her a lot, but he's been out there probably 3-5x more than she has. She didn't care, though!

She marched right out in front of him, lead the ride the whole way, and was very brave about it all. At one point some deer went jumping through the brush in front of us (in an area where they hang out, they didn't cross our path but we scared them off) and pony sort of startled and spooked in place and a little cluck and encouragement and she just kept walking! What a brave pony! We did one lap of the big loop in each direction and then went back to the barn. When we headed for the barn she didn't act barn sour at all - no rushing to get back, just an easy walking along just like on the way out.

She got much much praise and lots of cookies in her bucket. Mac was a good boy for Colin and overall it was a great first outing on the trails!

Go pony!!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

First riding video!

Here it is!

I'm basically copying and pasting this text from what I wrote elsewhere because I don't feel like typing the same thing all over again . . .

Yesterday was the third time I got on Princess Fancy Pants!

I brought the video camera out and set it up ahead of time and taped the whole thing - lunge, long line, double lunge, other preparations (flexions, bumping with the stirrup to move away from the aid). There were a couple of spooky moments with the neighbor standing outside in a brightly striped shirt talking on the phone, and the dogs being let out of the house and barking, but with each instance, the pony listened to me and didn't really do anything to spook, the head just came up and she looked intently.

I did one test almost-mounting by putting a foot in the stirrup and leaning over and petting her all over and she was fine. But the moment didn't feel right to continue, so I left the mounting block and took a little walk. We just walked in-hand for a bit (me by her shoulder, holding the reins) and then I walked back to the mounting block (which is what you see as the beginning of the video). I got on, sat there for a second to get my reins organized, and then walked off. (I was using two sets of reins - main reins on the lunging cavesson, then second reins on the bit.)

All we did was walk around and do a couple laps and changes of direction and transitions. Steering is sort of there and sort of not, that's okay, it was our first attempt under saddle.

I'm just so pleased with this pony and her work ethic and try and acceptance of new things. She has been so good these three short little times I've sat on her. I was actually hoping to do this with the trainer over the weekend, but I was sick and cancelled our lesson, so I had no ground person and it was just me. When the trainer comes, I'd like to have her lead me out of the arena and on the trails behind the barn/house.

But for now, it is just me and Pony and she is so good! I just had to share. :-)