Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow Play

Yesterday, I suspect that Guinness had a wreck in the snow. He was galloping around like mad with Cody, and while I was looking for the video camera, something happened. When I looked again, he was standing still with lowered head and cocked back foot. When I went to check on him, he seemed hesitant to walk, but I couldn't really detect anything wrong in the snow..

This afternoon, my friend Dave (a Natural Balance farrier) stopped by. While he was here, we had him check Guinness for lameness. He said that G. looks fine now.. Whew!

With that good news, I was free to play with him for a little while before sunset. My friend Julie had suggested that I play my iPod for motivation during horse-time, so I put it on. I grabbed a halter, a 12' rope, a carrot stick and my 45' line and started walking toward the roundpen.

Guinness followed me inside and I tacked him up with the halter and 45'. Let me tell you something - the 45' line is PERFECT for playing in the snow. It is thin enough that it cuts through snowdrifts without getting heavy & wet. It will be my "tool of choice" as long as this white stuff remains on the ground!

Here's how it went:

Backing w. me standing still - sucky. He kept trying to get me to move my feet to force him to back up and at about 10 feet away, he'd leak out to one side or the other. In all fairness, 10 ft. is about as far away as we practice at Liberty during feeding time. And, it must take a lot of trust back up in about a foot of snow.

Circling - Once I backed him out a ways, his send was really good. We played "don't make me pick up the stick." First I would give him a sheep-dog-stare, and then I'd imagine tagging the spot where I didn't want him to be very hard with my string. At the stare he'd perk up, and then when I'd look at the spot behind his hiney, he'd leap forward. I rarely picked up the stick and he cantered a lap or so around at each go.

Changes of direction - These went well once as long as I was mindful of where the 45' line was coiled near my feet (since we weren't playing at the end of it).

Sideways - We played with me walking straight toward his side which differs from cueing him from in front of zone 1 or with me walking sideways myself in zone 3. He was pretty good considering we were also working within the curved roundpen. We definitely have lots of room for improvement.

Squeeze - I'd forgotten about playing the "squeeze between me & the fence, then turn and face and wait" game. I did it to death with Smokey, but don't remember doing it with Guinness. He could care less about the squeeze part, but the hide your hiney and wait part was hard for him. He kept leaking out behind me. No wonder we have trouble with the Figure 8 pattern!

Mounting - Yup, we did it. He parked right next to the mounting block, so I tied the 12' into reins and I climbed aboard nekk'd (him not me). My husband was standing right there for moral support. Guinness did try to chew on my feet multiple times. (No treats this session and he was probably objecting.) We walked around a bit and then I dismounted. Ended on a high note. :-)

PS - The music from the iPod worked wonders for my attitude. It totally kept me motivated and prevented direct-line thinking.

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