Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Few Small Steps of Progress!

Today, Sunday, I can say that Buckshot and I made progress going down the farm road to a hay field.

I want to be able to ride him to the grass/hay field for occasional rides there at the walk and trot. But this is the hay field where, 2 weeks ago, he fell, under me, as we cantered during a reining clinic. Luckily he wasn’t hurt that day (nor was I) but I don’t plan to canter there again. The footing is too uneven for us.

Last weekend he didn’t want to walk down the farm road at all, but showed it only by turning his legs to cement and not going any further (after which I turned him around and didn’t make an issue of it). Later that day, when on a trail ride which went through the hay field, he didn’t want to stay there when I asked. Since there were other horses there, it wasn’t about being the only horse. At that time, I asked him again, and he acquiesced and we rode at a walk and slow trot for only ten minutes. Then we walked down the road – alone – back to the barn, without incident. So I have been wonderng if he remembers his fall and he doesn’t want to go there for that reason.

I assured him yesterday that we won’t canter there again. I don’t want to risk an injury to him (especially since he is 25 years old- not young) so it is not worth it to me to canter anywhere that the footing isn’t good. I hope he understands me (smile). I also wanted to try and walk him down the road again, so I tried it before we rode.

As I led him from pasture to barn for tacking up, I went to the start of the road. Smooth as silk, one minute we were walking forward and the next, he had executed a perfect 180 degree turn without my knowing it. The aids he gave me were invisible to the human eye! (smile) So I got the message and kept him going in the direction he chose. Not going to make an issue of it. Boy, he was smooth in his maneuver, too!

Later, after we had had a good ride in the arena and a nice trail ride, he seemed relaxed. I thought about trying again. But I decided not to, with the thought that if I try it more than once per day, it could become an obsession with me, and that wouldn’t be good for either of us. So I didn’t try it again, but thanked him for a great ride. He really did a super job on the trail – he alternated as the leader and as number 2 horse, both roles done calmly and well. I was very proud of him!

Today, I decided to ride him first, and then see about asking for a walk down the road (in hand). We had a good ride, doing primarily exercises and patterns at the walk and trot. He seemed relaxed, so I decided to try walking down the road. Acting as if it was the most natural thing in the world, we headed down the road! He stopped after a few feet, where I asked again (with a little tug on the lead line and the word “walk”). And he did! And he didn’t stop! He crossed the road a few feet down (the road itself has large stones on it, so he likes to stay on the edge where the ground is stone-free and softer), and I got us turned around a bit as I switched hands. But he was walking! I chose a tree about ten more feet down as the point we’d turn around, and did so without any problem. I guess we got about fifty feet further than we last tried! That is progress!

I wonder what caused the change today. I wonder if he felt a bit more confident after our ride today (as opposed to before the ride), and the confidence made him more open to walking down the road. I don’t know. I can’t identify anything different today (when he was willing to walk down the road) from yesterday (when he did a smooth 180 to turn me around), other than when we did it, in our routine. I’ll keep you posted to see if that seems to be a factor in our progress. I am really proud of him that he went as far as he did, without any problem, other than the one initial stop. As Grey Horse Matters said, little steps are good to form a basis of trust. (Very good insight!) I hope that he is beginning to trust me more. I’ll try to keep taking little steps, not big ones.


juliette said...

Nice work with Buckshot. He also was more confident because you were beside him. That does wonders for Pie, although I prefer to be on him rather than beside him. I am not confident on the ground. You are taking it slow with Buckshot and he will thank you for it!

Grey Horse Matters said...

There's no sense trying to guess why he doesn't like the hay field, only he knows that. But I think it's great that he's going a little farther all the time. He may feel more secure because you were walking beside him instead of riding. This way he could always jump in your pocket if there was trouble.(just kidding)

I think you're doing the right thing by taking the little steps to earn his trust and also to show him that there really is nothing to be fearful about. Good job to both of you, I'd be very proud of his bravery too.

Jan said...

Juliette and Arlene,
Thanks for your comments! I think this coming weekend I will try again to go down the road, once in hand and once in saddle. Both times I think I will try to get 50 yards down (about a third of the road)down and then turn around (if he is having some hesitation or questions about it). Yet, if he is doing fine, should I keep going? Or is that pushing too much and could undo the trust?

juliette said...

Hey Jan - Thank you for the kind words over on my blog!