Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fun! Even in the Cold.

It can be FUN to play horsey - even in the snow/ice, at 19 degrees with 16 mph wind gusts and an overcast sky..

This is a new idea for me, as I tend to resist even thinking about feeling cold. (This is probably not a revelation to skiers, however I've never really given winter sports a chance. Perhaps this would be an opportunity for personal growth?)

Anyway, since it snowed last week, the horses have been avoiding walking down to the front field. The other day, I noticed that the field had mostly thawed-out since it gets more sun than the area by the barn. A few days ago, I decided on impulse, to halter Guinness and lead him down to that field figuring that the others would follow, and that once he saw the opportunities (sunny, the hope of grass, no ice) that he would linger.

So, off we trudged. I had him on a 12' line and he was blanketed. He followed along pretty well until we passed the house then he got spooky. Of course, the others did the same thing and hung back at the entrance to the chute. We proceeded slowly onward, eventually making it to the field where he exuberantly snorted & bucked. I started feeling as though the 12' wasn't nearly long enough! When he mellowed out a bit, I released him thinking that he would canter around the field. No way. He galloped a bee-line straight back to his buddies even though he hadn't called for them at all. Go figure. The upside was that I noticed that I was feeling quite warm walking back to the house. :-)

The next day, we tried the same thing except on a 22' rope with a carrot stick. We made it to the field where he acted pretty much the same way. The difference was that after a few minutes, the other horses showed up. They all circled - cantering and bucking - while I had Guinness on the rope. I decided pretty quickly that between the extra rope (sticking to the velcro on my boot) and the stick being ineffective due to the string catching on his blanket, that I'd be safer releasing him. I also hoped that they would stay around since they were together. Wrong again! Off they galloped up the hill back to the barn.. On the walk back, I decided that it was still a good experience anyway and a great opportunity to develop my leadership.

So this morning, when I had the urge take a walk with Guinness, I grabbed the halter and 22' line without hesitation! This time, I removed the string from the stick to prevent it getting hung on his blanket. We did approach & retreat thru the chute and down to the field. He hung back a bit and but stepped forward with pressure (either from the rope or stick). I kept him about 10' from me and to the side where I could watch him, to prevent him from crowding or jumping on me.

We made it to the big field with Cody following until about 1/2 down the chute, where he stood watching Guinness. Again, Guinness was really excited in the field and I sent him out on a circle to leap and buck. I noticed that I had much better control with the stringless-stick. When he calmed down and turned and faced pretty sanely, I decided to quit while we were ahead and to mosey back toward the house. When we got through the field gate and into the bottom of the chute, he started getting antsy again, even though Cody was within 50' of us.

We played squeeze game using the fence until he was willing to walk both directions and then to turn and face when asked. (I turned the stick around and used the handle- end to increase its effectiveness with his blanket.) I mixed things up by asking him to circle and to halt with the stick in front of him. About this time his head came down and he was thinking and more obedient, but I never really heard him blow.

We mosied back up the hill where I released him in view of the barn. This time, he stuck around for scratches instead of galloping away - much better for both of us!

This session, I never even noticed the cold. I vow from now on that if I have the urge to play horsey, even in the cold, that I will tell myself to go out and give it a try before deciding that it isn't worth it. It will make for a much more interesting "very early spring" (never say winter).

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