Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Controlled Catastrophe

This morning was a little more interesting at the barn. I need to be more careful what I wish for!

The haul over was uneventful - Guinness loaded with me pointing at the trailer from about 12' away with the rope looped over his neck. (Though he did give a second thought to exploring the grass by the trailer instead.)

When we arrived, I released him to explore the arena. Then he caught me and I sent him into a stall from about 12' away. The way that this is set up is a serious squeeze game. He continues to hesitate a little when his Zone 3 reaches the doorway to the stall, but proceeds in. We did this a couple of times, and then I released him and shut the stall door.

I walked a little ways away, and when he stayed calm, I clicked and then walked back to treat. We did this a few times. Then I went to get the barrels, but kept talking to him - all ok. But when I carried the barrels to the far end of the arena, he tried to climb the stall! No kidding, both front feet up on the half-wall. I'm very glad that his hooves didn't slide through the bars. Now, he wasn't calling or otherwise worried, but I guess that he must be a little RB about being locked up and left..

When I saw him with his feet up, I stopped and gave him the back up hand signal - from about 80' (?) feet away. It worked! He stood calmly but alertly as I walked slowly back. I clicked him from a ways away (while he was standing quietly) and treated. What a nut.

I set up an "L" with poles, plus a ground pole parallel to the fence, and the 1/2 barrels in corners. We played on the 22' for about 1/2 hour:
  • backing the L from pressure on his nose, and then with driving game
  • sideways along the fence at a trot at 15'-20' away, both directions, and over pole (not gracefully)
  • canter stick-to-me with sliding stop at "whoa"
  • a couple of circles at the walk
We stopped at the front gate and he picked up all 4 hooves for me from one side, and then the other, no resistance at all. :-)

I went to stand on the mounting block and stood still while I mounted from both sides and slid off - not difficult since he was totally bareback. (I had to be careful not to throw myself completely over him, and kept accidentally kicking him in the top of the rear.) I slid off once over his rump for the first time.

We walked from barrel to barrel around the arena for about 1 1/2 times without incident. However, the second time that we approached the left side entrance, a spastic 3 year old mare in the paddock adjacent to the arena rammed into the metal gate next to us and then galloped away! (There were DOT workers making beeping truck noises on the nearby highway.) Guinness threw his head up and jumped. I stayed seated, but off kilter. Then he started to leave and I swung down to my feet, while he snorted. Whew!

We didn't leave that gate until his eyes got smaller and my legs stopped shaking, but he didn't blow or drop his head. We walked back in forth by that gate with me shaking it periodically, and he didn't seem bothered.

We walked down further to the lighted enclosed end of the arena and he picked me up from the fence. Then we walked from between the two barrels at that end a couple of times, with him keeping an eye on the side entrance. I decided to quit while we were still confident.

I tied him to the rail a couple of times during this session and he remained calm. I even sent him back into the stall without hesitation. We also worked the gate both directions from the ground. (He is doing great with this.)

In hindsight, I wish that I'd warmed myself up better this morning and stretched out. I seem to have given myself a small back spasm during the spook. The best thing that I did this morning was to repeatedly mount and dismount all different ways bareback. That probably helped him to not worry more as I ungracefully slid off of him during the spook.

In the future, I need to pay more attention to his releases of tension (head lowering, blowing, lip licking) since with him they tend to be very subtle. After the spook, he seemed pretty calm and compliant, but yet still a bit tense. When we arrived back home, his head went down and he rolled and looked noticeably more relaxed.

This was our last session at the stable for over a week. I think that we can use the head break. Tomorrow, we will be attending a playdate at a friend's arena, and will probably take Cody along with us. My goals for tomorrow are to:
  1. Have fun and socialize
  2. Relax and have some undemanding time
  3. Ride the rail until he goes on autopilot!
  4. Figure 8s in a different location
  5. Apply the hobbles again (it has been months) while he grazes
  6. Play in the creek
The forecast for tomorrow is 76 degrees and clear. :-)

1 comment:

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

I am really glad that it all turned out okay and that you were able to land on your feet after the spook. Good job on your reflections and plans for the future!