Monday, October 5, 2009

A Lovely Trail Ride and Dawn is a Star

My daughter and I had a wonderful trail ride - no pictures - we were too busy riding! Miranda was very well behaved - my daughter isn't sure she'd ever been on a trail ride before. She stayed behind Maisie, and furiously chomped the bit (this is her way of expressing anxiety), as she was having to walk more slowly than she wanted. She only spooked once, slightly, and dealt with barking dogs, lawnmowers, farm equipment and various suburban yard items including hammocks. Maisie also spooked once, but I have no idea what caused it. The first half of the ride, Maisie "eared" Miranda, and would turn her head to look at her. It's very funny to see one ear completely focussed forwards and one turned all the way to the side - I wish I had a picture!

On the way home, Maisie exhibited some of her barn sour behavior - wanting to speed up and even to jig - we did lots of serpentines to keep her mind occupied, and when that didn't suffice, I turned her to face Miranda and we just stood there for a while until she relaxed. After we got back to the barn, we did some work in the ring - Maisie and I didn't do too much trot work as the footing was a bit iffy, but we did some lateral work and some "floating" work - forward to side-pass to backing to side-pass to forward - she had some trouble with the sidepass to the right and at one point balked and gave a little half-rear - I believe she was telling me her stifles weren't cooperating in that direction - so I modified it to a leg-yield which she could do.

And then I went home for a while and took a break. When I returned to the barn later - the barn is only about 200 yards from my house, so it's no big deal to come and go - Jill, who was bringing horses in and feeding that day, told me that Dawn had been a star. As she was bringing in, Sugar and Misty got a wild hair and were running like mad. She already had Dawn on the lead inside the pasture, and asked Dawn to stay with her. Even though Dawn was watching the others, she continued to pay attention to Jill and stayed calm, as Misty and Sugar slid up to the gate, spun and galloped off again - for some reason they found Miranda's presence exciting all over again although they'd settled for the day. Dawn was a star! - she maintained her composure under trying circumstances.

Dawn and I groomed and tacked, minus bridle. I put on her halter with the fuzzy noseband, and carried her bridle out to the ring with me. We worked for a while on our clicker training - targeting the cone. We also worked on having her back away before I gave her a treat, and on her head-down, using both poll pressure and then the lead rope to ask. Then we did some leading - I did the "crazy walk game" - where I walk slowly, then fast, then stop, then face her and back, then turn one way, and then the other (the turn to the right is particularly challenging if you're to the horse's left). The objective is for Dawn to stay right with me without my having to use the lead. She was right on it, which was very satisfying.

Then we did more lunging off my body language and energy. We worked on walk/trot/walk/halt combinations - she was more clued in today, even to the right which is her more difficult direction. Then I bridled her and mounted up. She really has no idea about speed regulation off my seat - this is really an extension of our energy/body position work on the lunge - but she was trying really hard and listening to me. We worked on walk/halt/walk - I did use a secondary "whoa" verbal cue to help her along and she was beginning to get it. We did patterns - circles, serpentines, etc. I wanted to stay off her mouth and get her to stretch down, which she did. It was interesting - every time we halted, even though I wasn't using my reins, her head shot up. She would soften to the bit momentarily when I asked, but her head popped right up. I'm not worrying about this now - that's for later - right now I just want her to get the idea of listening to my seat aids. We need to more in-hand softening work before I want to do much of that under saddle. I was really, really pleased - she stayed calm and attentive throughout all our work - I didn't see much worrying, which is a first for her.

We finished up with another "leading by the legs" session, sticking with the right front leg and using clicker. She made good progress, and we're going to keep working on that. I'd say that I had an excellent day with horses - hope your day was as good!


  1. It sounds like Dawn has come a long way already, maybe even further than you had realized. It is fun following your progress with her.

  2. What an awesome horsey day! :o)

  3. What a lovely day you had!

    I do the crazy-walk game, too. I didn't have a name for it, though. When Dixie's concentration is 100 yards away, I will dismount and lead her on a twisty turny path through the sagebrush. Once she stops stumbling over bushes and starts precisely stepping where I have stepped, I've got her attention back and I can remount. :)

  4. Sounds like you had one of those perfect horse days. Maybe a reward for all of your hard work? Wonderful!

    I check here often for "patience reminders". My horse has an amazing amount of fears and we're working to build that trusting relationship. It's going very well indoors, but the great outdoors still scares him...and his strong reactions scare me. It's hard to break outdoors into tiny steps.

    I'll have to try the crazy-walk game outside, next time I lose his focus.

  5. Thanks for the reminder that it's always a good thing to have refresher courses on the basics.

  6. Wow, I agree, an awesome horsey day!! Glad everyone was doing soo good, and jealous of your great trail ride! My mom and I tried to get out Sat but it didnt work out, maybe next time!


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