Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some Firsts

Yesterday, Dawn and I had some firsts. After I groomed, I saddled her up - not too tightly, as I'd decided to finish girth tightening outside to avoid the shift and shuffle I was getting on the cross-ties. I left her halter on and carried her bridle. Once we got to the arena, I tightened up the girth without any problem and put on her bridle, just leaving the reins on her neck.

Then we worked some more on the ground pole. We did a couple of one-step-at-a-time approaches to the pole, with a lead away and walk around after. Very calm. Then I asked for something different - not to just walk across the pole from her position in front of it, but to just lift one foot and put it on the other side. When I asked for this the first time, she struggled with it for a moment - she shifted from foot to foot and walked a bit from side to side on the other side of the pole and seemed slightly worried, but I kept gently asking, and then she put one foot over and kept it there! I then asked her to walk on across - still a little rushed but not too bad. We walked around to allow her a release and a chance to think. Then we did it a couple more times, and she did just as well, with less hesitation before putting the one foot over.

Then I asked for the next stage - to slowly put one front foot over, and then the second one, and just stand there with her front feet on one side of the pole and hind feet on the other. This went pretty well after a try or two. We had one time where things fell apart and she just rushed over the pole with all four feet - I didn't correct her or try to restrain her at all - I want her to choose to do what I ask and not be controlled into it, and I also want her to know that if she worries or tries the wrong thing, that bad things won't happen. I just ignored what she did and we turned immediately back to the pole again for another try. I shortened up the time I asked her to stand before moving off to make it easier for her to succeed - we can increase the time we stand another day. Two more successful pole straddles, and we were done! She's still pretty quick with the two hinds as she moves over the pole on walking off, but we'll get to that later. I'm really pleased with our progress so far.

As we were on our walk-arounds after successful pole work, we also reviewed our backing in hand using the halter, and our turn on the forehand in one direction (this time I just used the halter and my hand on the rope just in front of her withers to request no forward movement, rather than the bridle). She remembered what we had done perfectly, and I was even able to get softness through her body in the backing - I'm particularly looking for softness in the area just in front of her withers where she tends to be very braced. That's one great thing about Dawn - she's really smart and picks up things very quickly.

And then another first (or a couple) as we continued our work on mounting. She remembered just how to come up to the mounting block and position herself, and she didn't fuss when I put my foot in the stirrup, rubbed her side with my toe and bounced a little bit up and down. So we moved on to the next step - I put my foot in the stirrup, after asking her to lower her head with a little cue downwards on the lead rope:

Then I put my full weight in the stirrup and stood there for a moment, leaning across her with my weight on my hands and foot:

As you can see from the above picture, her head came up and I got a little bit of tail action, but she stood absolutely still - notice that I'm putting no pressure on the lead or reins. We did a nice walk-around, and then repeated. I think some of the head and tail stuff is just balancing - she's not used to having a person using one stirrup to mount - and some is a little bit of worry. We'll keep working on it until the worry goes away. Other than a brief period a couple of years ago when my older daughter got on Dawn a few times while my younger daughter was overseas, Dawn has been ridden by no one but my younger daughter, and only bareback, for the last 8 years. I rode Dawn a number of times in the past, but it was that long ago. I was delighted with her progress so far.

I decided to continue, based on how well she was doing - I wasn't too concerned about the little bit of worry. So we went on to my mounting her and sitting in the saddle - I didn't put my right foot in the stirrup or fuss with how I was sitting yet - that'll come later:

You can see from her expression in the above photo that she still is thinking about the whole thing - but again I was delighted that she stood absolutely still - my daughter often mounts while she's walking and I had expected we might get some movement - but not a bit, which was delightful. I sat there for a moment, and then dismounted - we can start walking around later once some of the worries are reduced. She got a big walk-around on the first mounting and after the second time, I led her straight out of the arena and back to her stall for dinner as a reward. Interesting enough, the part that seemed to concern her the most was my dismounting using the stirrup and mounting block - this felt much different to her than my daughter dismounting from bareback. Once we're really riding, I'll likely get off by taking both feet out of the stirrups and just jumping to the ground.

Here we are as were were done - we both look pretty happy, and I think she's very pretty, but then I'm partial!

I was planning to take neglected Maisie on a short trail ride, but as I was picking Noble's feet, he asked me again to clean his sheath - when I was in his stall he was dropped, and he even let me handle his parts without protest and look for beans - I only found a tiny one. So I got the Excalibur gel, a pair of disposable gloves and a bucket of clean, warm water and ground tied him in the aisle. He was extremely cooperative and seemed to really appreciate it - in fact the only problem I had was that he kept lifting one hind leg and leaning in a way that made me worry he was going to fall over on me! So I asked him to put the leg down when this started to happen. He didn't drop but I was able to get a good amount of junk out - the poor guy even had some old pieces of pelleted bedding up in there! Then we did some rinsing and wiping with the water and cotton balls - soft cloths would be better - and we were done. I was delighted - I've never cleaned a sheath before, and in the 12 years I've had him he's never had his sheath cleaned except under sedation. I don't know why I never tried before, but now I know better. I'll try to catch him when he's dropped some time to finish the job.

Poor Maisie never did get her ride - but she demanded a treat from me by whinnying!


  1. well done.... the greatest of all victories is to be victorious over yourself

    happy trails

  2. Great pics! Dawn looks relaxed about the whole mounting process so I'm sure you had the right attitude about everything. And I'm glad all went well with Noble!

  3. Yay Kate!
    Great progress with Dawn, I'm happy for you both. Having a number of geldings, sheath cleaning is a fairly common occurrence - but what ditso didn't realize, is that girls need to get 'cleaned up' as it were, too. True, I knew mama's who had expanded bags would, but the 2yr olds and even the weanlings get a bit clogged up, too. Here I'm mostly referring to their udders.

  4. Jon - yeah, I've done the udder cleaning bit with my mares - Lily used to demand that I do it. Glad to hear from you!

  5. Excellent! Even in the last photo with you aboard...she looks relaxed through the rest of her body. Tail swishing, sure, head up a bit, but she is not tense through the rest of her body! Yay! She sure is a pretty girl!

    No wonder Noble was beggin' for a little sheath attention! Those bedding pellets were probably awfully uncomfortable. You made his whole week! Good for you for remembering the gloves...I always forget and have smell "smegma hands" for at least three days after a sheath cleaning. Yech.

  6. She is very pretty!! And a very smart girl as well. I love reading all about how you are 're-training' her.

  7. Well done, again. Nice progress and careful steps, one at time seem to be making all the difference. You are not prejudiced. Dawn is a very pretty girl.

    Horses can be very good about communicating what they want from us. Apparently Noble knew you would listen!

  8. I'm really enjoying the detailed posts on your daily work with Dawn. I hope you keep writing them!

    Sounds like Noble has moved your relationship to a new level, hee hee. :)

  9. I'm not partial at all, and I think Dawn is lovely. :o)

    Great posts on your work with her. I'm really enjoying them too! I really ought to chat with you on the whole sheath cleaning bit -- I need to start doing Panama's, and I'm pretty sure he'll let me, as long as I don't screw it up and accidentally do something that hurts him. Tips would be very appreciated!

  10. She looks very relaxed. Another good day of progress.

  11. Sounds like a great session with Dawn! And she looks lovely!
    LOL re the sheath cleaning! 2 of mine are OK about it but Captain tries to kick if I even dare to look at it!! I admit to taking full advantage of the odd occasion when he's been sedated for vet work ... but I did feel like I was abusing him!!

  12. A question: do you have a favorite book by Mark Rashid? I have a gift certificate, and want to buy one, but it's hard to choose.


  13. She is very good looking, Kate!
    I like to hear about your description of the work with her. What a good job you are doing.

  14. Anonymous - They're all worth reading, but my personal favorites are Life Lessons From a Ranch Horse, Horses Never Lie and A Good Horse is Never A Bad Color. Enjoy!


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