Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ground Work - a Rare Thing for Us, and a Note on Red's Soundness

I almost never do ground work of any kind.  I usually do ground work to check things out progressively with a new horse where I don't know what the horse knows or doesn't know, to teach the horse a specific skill (ground driving can be very useful for this), to help a horse who is too distracted or fresh to be able to focus and work (and to allow for some "bucks for safety"), or to briefly lunge to check soundness.  One thing I don't do is a lot of lungeing - I don't like the wear and tear on joints, and I don't need to lunge to assess my horse's mood - that's usually pretty obvious as we groom and tack up.

I usually just get on and ride.  But today, for a change, Red and Pie did some ground work with me.  It's a great way to do some work when I don't have the time or inclination to ride.

Both boys worked on "trailer loading" - as in loading into the wash stall or into their stalls, with me giving a go forward cue from the side with a dressage whip - gently tapping until they take a step, repeat.  Both boys "loaded" well, and also backed into the wash stall too.

Red and I worked on his inside turns, just at the walk.  He tried some trotting, but I kept him at walk - we're not trotting yet.  I wanted clean turns, where he turned and stayed out, not cutting in.  It was easier in one direction than the other, but he did it very nicely by the end of our session.  We did zig zags back and forth across the arena.  The trick for me is to make sure I lead with my new leading hand and turn my body so he knows to turn and keep going, and that I don't step away from him as he turns, since that tends to bring him in towards me - most of this is about how clear and precise I am with my body language, rather than about what Red is doing - he's a great feedback mechanism.  Red and I also did a bit of side passing and turn on the forehand in hand.

Pie and I worked on getting him to go forward on the lunge at the walk.  Pie makes it clear that he doesn't think there's much point to lungeing - too much unnecessary expenditure of energy - but he grudgingly cooperated.  (Pie doesn't think there's too much point to most things people do - except when the provide hay or grain.)

Yesterday I had the chance to observe Red moving in the pasture.  It was beastly hot, and I was bringing Pie in because of the heat, and Red came after us at the trot and then the canter.  He was perfectly sound, including when cantering on the left lead, which puts more stress on the right hind (the leg that's been troubling him recently).  He broke to trot, trotted sound, but then as he slowed to a more collected trot in preparation for walk, he wasn't sound on the right hind - he can't collect, which puts more stress on the joints and supporting structures.  I'm thinking joints - either the hock or the fetlock joint - but then I'm not a vet . . .  I'm not riding him at all this week, and this weekend I'll put him on the lunge again to see if he's improving . . .

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