Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Overloads and Do What You Can

Today was one of those days where it was important to be flexible and work with the horses you have today, making sure expectations don't override reality.

It was windy and on and off rainy today.  Pie and I had about a 40-minute trail ride and were attacked by small children - at least that's what Pie thought.  As we were coming down a trail, all of a sudden there was group of about 25 third and fourth graders coming back from working at the organic farm - the local school does quite a bit of that.  Pie, when I first had him, was scared of small children, I think because he'd never seen one before.  He now likes children, at least if they're in small numbers and well-behaved.  This school group was a horde, and they were jumping, and running, and shouting and shrieking.  I pulled Pie over to the side of the trail, and we stood there for a moment as the first group of kids passed us.  Then there was more shrieking and running - there were teachers but they didn't do anything (perhaps the school needs some horse education).  Pie did what any self-respecting horse in possibly mortal danger would do - he spun and bolted.  I stopped him after about two leaps - he was in the sidepull but stops easily, and turned him and we kept moving in the opposite direction as the remaining kids - a worried horse that is moving is easier to deal with than a worried horse that is standing still.  Once we'd passed the last of the children, we turned and followed them for a couple of hundred yards - following something scary often makes it much less worrisome.  Then we turned and went on our way - he calmed right down and we had a very nice ride despite the wind.  Good Pie!

Then I tacked up Dawn.  It started to rain a bit just as we were getting ready to leave the barn and go to the arena.  We stood in the barn door for a minute and when it eased up we went out to the arena and I mounted up.  Within a few minutes the heavens opened up and it poured.  Dawn is a horse that hates getting rain on her face and head, and it was raining hard.  I jumped off and we hightailed it back to the barn - she trotted along with me.  I put her in her stall for a minute, and after a bit we were able to go back out.  We worked on our softening work at the walk - she was in the sidepull - it was too soupy in the arena to trot - and also reviewed our lateral work - turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches, since that's what we could do.  She did very well.  Then I rode her to the gate, leaned over and opened the latch - I've never done this with her before - and rode her out the gate and down the path next to the barn and back into the parking lot.  This is the first time I've ridden her outside the arena, and she was very good although it was only 50 feet or so.  My younger daughter used to ride her on the trail all the time, but also had to deal with numerous incidents of bolting and bucking.  Good Dawn!

As I tacked up Drifter, the wind was really picking up and by the time we went to the arena it was howling - I'd say the gusts were over 30 mph.  He was clearly nervous.  I did bridle him and we did a bit of in-hand work, but it was clear conditions weren't good to ride him - he was just too worried about the wind.  I felt no need to force the issue - we have time - and found some things he could do well.  We did a lot of circling and giving to the bit - I just kept his nose tipped towards me and even if he were inclined to spook he couldn't run into me.  We also did some backing in hand.  Then we moved to the parking lot - I kept the bridle on - and we did some standing around work, mixed with some circling when he needed to move his feet due to the high winds.  He did very well with this, and I think is beginning to find that standing with me is comforting.  He was glad to get back into the barn out of the wind, and was quiet on the cross-ties as I untacked and picked his feet.  Good Drifter!


  1. One time my PJ spooked at a group of adults on a nature walk. I don't think people are supposed to gather in "herds." *lol* The nice thing is that Pie settled down quickly once the "danger" was gone.

    Good for Dawn and good for Drifter. Both worked pretty well in the wind and uncooperative weather.

  2. I am constantly amazed at how much work you get done with the horses in crummy weather. It sounds like all three learned a lot today!

  3. I can feel Pie's anxiety - sometimes I want to bolt when it comes to lots of shrieking small children! :-) All three rides were a success - congrats!

  4. Like Wolfie said, I'd want to bolt from a hoard of unruly kids too- good job you did with Pie there.
    Progress in small increments is just as important as success in big strides.


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