Monday, January 25, 2010

Precision Leading

This morning was one of those mornings where all the leading work the horses get, every day, pays off. We still have a great deal of ice, although it's worse in the aisles and the approaches to the pastures than it is inside the pastures. In the pastures, there's enough manure scattered around, and enough exposed bits of frozen mud, that the horses can get around with some care. The challenge this morning was getting from the barn to the pastures. I took the horses one by one so we could travel very specific paths.

Both the mares and geldings had specific leading challenges to conquer. The mares had to lead along an aisle where the only safe path was immediately adjacent to a fenceline - the aisle's about 10 feet wide but the only safe area was the narrow strip, about 18" wide, that was all the way to the right. I asked each mare to follow in my footsteps, directly behind me, at just the speed we needed to go. We actually had to push through some standing weeds and small bushes to do it. When I'm leading this way, with my back to the horse and a loose lead, I don't do anything else to control them - as we started to go up the aisle, I directed each horse to follow me, and each horse did - they were all stars! No one crowded, if I had to stop, they stopped, and when we got to the gate they waited. The gate itself was a challenge - it would only open a narrow horse-width - it was blocked by some stuff that had melted and then refrozen yesterday. Each mare led carefully and precisely through this very narrow opening.

The geldings had a different challenge - they had to wait in a fairly icy area for me to open the gate, and due to how the gate opens and where the ice was inside the gate, I had to send each horse by me to almost the end of the 10' lead, where they had to stop without turning back towards me and wait for me to close the gate and walk to their head. Once again, they were a bunch of stars! I was even more delighted because this was a bunch of horses who got little or no turnout yesterday, so they were very eager to get out. They all listened, and we got the job done safely.

We're supposed to have temperatures just at or above freezing, and we're supposed to get a little bit of snow today and tonight - with luck the footing will improve a bit before tomorrow when we go back into the deep freeze.

12 comments:

  1. Good job! It feels good when work you put in pays off.

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  2. It's great to know all the training has paid off. I think too, the horses clue in to the fact that the footing is dangerous and perhaps were looking to you for safety and leadership--which is exactly the goal of the training.

    I remember when I rode my PJ, if we came to a spot where the footing looked slippy, I'd say, "Careful, careful," he he would drop his head to look and then take baby steps through the danger. Too often we underestimate about ability to communicate to our horses.

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  3. Good manners pay off. It was 54 here this morning and still raining. I took off the horses blankets and had to put them back in when the rain got worse (they enjoyed their flakes of second cutting). Now they are out, have rolled in the mud and the wind has picked up...temperatures dropping. They will all have to be groomed so I can put their blankets back on.
    Oh me....

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  4. What a bunch of good, good ponies! Isn't exciting when you see all of your hard work put into action?

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  5. We got to do some precision leading last night too! We have large patches of glare ice around here & spring can't come soon enough. I was so proud of the boys and their good leading skills. Of course, Barrett is a mountain goat in horse's body, so he's not the least bit concerned about the ice, but Mosco depends on me for guidance when the footing isn't good. Glad you got all the horses out safely!

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  6. I love it when the horses all come through for you like that! I will say that I do not like leading a horse directly behind me if there is any way at all to avoid it, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. So far I have always lived to tell the tale. :)

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  7. I love it when manners and training pay off, especially if there are less than optimum conditions. Your herd sounds like a sensible well trained bunch. Glad to hear it all worked out well.

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  8. Well done. I love it when your training all comes together and especially when you really need them to listen!

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  9. What an icy, nasty mess! Everything takes so muc longer and is more challening during the winter. sigh. Good thing your horses are understanding and cooperative during this time.

    Stay warm. We're getting hit by more winter storms and lots more snow this week. And we still have 6" on the ground that won't melt. Too cold!

    ~Lisa

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  10. Man, it's got to be a challenge dealing with cooped-up horses in weather like that. Stay warm and be careful out there.

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