Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Trail Ride with Baby Steps and Standing Around, and Dawn Turns

It was a beautiful day - almost 60, sun and clouds, and a little wind - a perfect fall day. Maisie and I went on a trail ride and had an enjoyable time. She was very responsive to my seat, and I was able to ask her to do everything from a long-strided, swinging walk, to "baby steps", just off my seat aids without using my hands, just maintaining a very light contact. At one point, the trail crosses through a line of trees, and at this spot she became very nervous. To help her out, I dismounted and led her through that bit, and remounted when we came to the next large rock. As we turned towards home, she started wanting to speed up. I asked her to slow with my seat, which mostly worked. When she started to jig, I quickly, but not roughly, turned her to face the way we had come from, with her butt facing where we were going, and we just stood there on a loose rein until she showed some signs of relaxation - a sigh or head and neck relaxing. This allowed me to take advantage of something Maisie does very well - standing still. This is something we've been working on for years and she now stands really well, almost regardless of the circumstances. We met up with Sugar at one point and continued on back to the barn with her.

Dawn and I had another good work session today. We groomed and tacked - she spent time resting her muzzle on my shoulder and letting me stroke her face - this is something she also likes to do with my daughter. When she really relaxes, she's actually resting her top teeth on your shoulder, and if you look, her top lip is all pushed up, and her head gets heavier and heavier. I believe it's one way she shows affection and relaxation. We went out to the ring, and she was very good, despite the distraction of Sugar in the ring and Scout being ridden off up the hill. We did more "crazy walking" - she's really got this, and turns, swerves, speeds up and slows down and backs up instantly as I do the same things. It's actually fun to do with her. Then we did some lungeing off my energy level and body language. She's really got it for walk, trot and halt going to the left, and is improving to the right. Now when we lunge, instead of racing off, she is very quiet and relaxed and understands that we're doing things instead of just running on the lunge, which is all she knew how to do before.

Then we did more work with ropes in preparation for ground driving. Today I worked with two lines, one attached to each side of her halter with the fuzzy nosepiece. I held the nearside line in my left hand and took the offside line, which was lying across her neck, and rubbed it across her back, butt and then around her hindquarters. She really didn't care. Then we tried the outside turn, where I continued to stand to her left and pulled the rope that went from the right side of the halter along her side and around her butt. The objective was for her to turn to the right, away from me. She didn't get it - all she did was back up - very nicely and softly but that wasn't what I was looking for. She wasn't distinguishing between pressure on one side of the halter and pressure on both sides. So I moved in close for some in-hand work and used one line in my hand, either with my hand over her neck in the case of the right side line, or with my hand holding the line at her shoulder in the case of the left side line, to ask her to turn her head and body. I started with a fairly open leading rein. She tried a bunch of things - backing, turning her head to the side but not moving her body, ducking her head to her chest - until she offered up turning. It was harder for her to do to the right, which is consistently her harder direction. We worked on this for a while until she was getting it in both directions. I was able to use a more direct rein as she began to get it. Now we have the understanding we need to go back and do the outside turn with the long line around her butt. This is a fundamental skill we need for our long-lining to come.

With that we were done - she's really trying hard and is feeling comfortable enough to offer up lots of different tries as she's figuring out what I want, without getting nervous or stressed. Her whole demeanor, and her eyes, are softer and more relaxed, and she comes back to me much more quickly that she used to. I'm really delighted with her progress!


  1. Every day as you update your progress on Dawn she has come farther and farther along. It has been great to be able to follow along on this journey with you and Dawn and I'm looking forward to more of it!

  2. Another awesome day!!!!! Your progress sounds like it is at a good steady pace.


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