Sunday, September 26, 2010

Introducing Something New to a Horse

Yesterday, Saturday, was ridiculously hot here in Virginia. It is September, for goodness’ sake, and still in the 90’s. Buckshot already has grown his winter “jacket” because, as you probably know, the thicker hair growth occurs as the hours of daylight change, not as the temperatures dip. So he continues to grow thicker hair, even though it is too hot for it. He can’t help it.

So I planned to ride him very lightly yesterday because of the hot temperatures. We started with groundwork in his pasture, using small plastic cones (bright pink – but I wonder what color they are to him?) that I bought at Target. I placed them in a line and we did cone bending around them, then used them to mark areas to do circles. We did turns on the hindquarters, and circling around me. He seemed to enjoy it, especially the mints he got after each successful exercise. Then after tacking him up, we went to the arena and did primarily walking and trotting. We tried one canter, which was okay, and we spent a lot of time standing in the shade. When the 1:30 class convened, we did a nice long trail ride through the woods, and after that, I rinsed him off. He was very good- especially with having to do riding work in high heat while wearing his winter jacket!

Today, Sunday, the temperatures were cooler – in the low 80’s, but still humid. I am still patiently, well, not so patiently, waiting on the actual autumn cooler temperatures. Sorry I keep griping about this. We began with more groundwork, including our game of “walking the fenceline” where we walk along the fence, and intersperse it with circles, or stop and backing, or circling around a tree. After the groundwork, I tacked him up and went to the arena for a while. We did walk and trot patterns, and a few canters. He wouldn’t pick up the right lead at all. He was pretty good on the left lead, going down the long side of the arena. But the right lead evaded us.

When another rider came into the arena, I decided that we would walk down the farm road to the new “arena” area in the hay field, and do some walking and trotting. We have never walked down this road on our own, in the past we are always with other horses and riders. But we struck out for the hay field anyway. Buckshot did fine for the first hundred feet. The road turned and we went around the stallion pasture. The stallion was not interested in us and didn’t bother us. Buckshot went another thirty feet and stopped. I urged him on. He remain stopped. Not snorting, or agitated, or turning around, or any behaviors, just feet that were absolutely planted in place. Did not move. Could not move.

Okay, I thought, I’ll get off and we’ll walk down there. That’s fine for a first time. So I dismounted, and started to lead him. Feet still totally planted. Not moving. At all. I asked for two steps in the direction of the hay field, then we’ll go back, I promised. Feet still planted. Turned to cement. So after a few minutes, I turned him around. We’ll try it again, I said. We’ll get further next time, I’m sure.

I wasn’t mad. It was a new thing for Buckshot and he let me know it really worried him to go down that road by ourselves. And he didn’t act bad, he just didn’t move his feet. (There are much worse ways for a horse to say no, so in all, I don’t feel bad about it.) But I do plan for us to get down that road eventually, and enjoy using the new riding area.

A bit later, we joined a few riders for a trail ride, and the trail goes by the new hay field area. Two of the riders stayed there to ride. The other three of us continued on another trail in the woods. On the return route, we passed the hay field again, and this time, I stayed with the two riders in the hay field. Buckshot did not want to do this; he wanted to follow the horses back to the barn. He stretched his neck in their direction to let me know his opinion, but after I turned him and gave a little leg, he agreed to do what I asked.

Buckshot and I did some walking and trotting in the hay field, while the other two riders went far off into other areas of the hay field. After a few minutes, I decided that was enough and we would go back to the barn. I started walking Buckshot down the road to the barn. He did fine, walking by ourselves, going in this direction. We got back to the barn and I dismounted and gave him his after-ride carrots, a bath and a stopping-for-grass walk back to his home pasture.

So we did some new things today- some that we will continue to work on, as they definitely worry Buckshot, and others that he did without missing a beat. But I am proud of him – he is very tractable with most everything I ask of him, and when he voices an opposing opinion, sometimes he will go ahead and give in to my directions; other times he just very politely, and very firmly, plants those legs and won’t go another inch (smile). And that is the clue to me that I have to use a different approach and take his worries into consideration. Still, I love him and think he is a wonderful horse!!


Carol said...

He sounds like such a nice horse. So sweet and willing and so much fun to ride. And it's kind of cute that he told you his opinion of going to the field alone - clearly that's a dangerous idea on your part :) Ha ha
I'm sure he'll work up to it and you have a great attitude about it - with all the great things he does, this is minor.

Jan said...

Carol, Thanks for your kind comments- it made my day! Yes, Buckshot is a sweet horse, and it is worth it to ease him into something new. No more cantering on the grass, though! I'll just keep him at a walk and easy trot (and do our cantering in the regular arena).

Grey Horse Matters said...

He is a sweetie, there are a lot of horses who would use different tactics to not go where you want them to. He sounds like a horse with his own mind, but I'm sure eventually your conversations will be more give and take for both of you. Little steps are good to form a basis of trust.

Jan said...

Arlene, thanks for your comment. Especially your insight: little steps are good to form a basis of trust. I want to remember that. Thanks!

Once Upon an Equine said...

Good for you and Buckshot. I think progress in small steps is still big progress. I'm trying to get my bravery up so I can ride Misty along some neighborood roads alone. Maybe we'll just start by going part way.

Jan said...

Once Upon an Equine, Thank you for your comment! I so agree with you that progess in small steps is still big progress! Yet, darn it, it's hard sometimes to get that through my thick skull! Good for you on working with Misty on the neighborhood roads. Yes, I think targeting something just part way down the road is good (see my next post)and perhaps can build her confidence slowly at a pace she is comfortable with. Good luck!