Monday, March 9, 2015

Dawn and I Go Back to Work

Due to our extremely cold February, Dawn and I only managed two rides in February, and the last one was on February 9 - a month ago.  Now that our weather is finally back to something resembling normal - 40s and even 50 during the day - it was time for us to go back to work.  It was still cold this morning - upper 20s - but that was good enough.

I rarely do groundwork or lungeing, but this was an occasion where I did.  Dawn and I did leading work, two-line ground driving and one-line lungeing.  She was saddled for riding, but I didn't much care if we made it to riding today.  The purpose of the work we did was to allow her to express her feelings if she needed to, in a way that kept me safe, and also to get our connection back, where she and I were tuned in and she was following my lead and thought.  Running her around on the lunge to tire her out wasn't part of the plan - if she needed to move, that was fine, but my aim was calmness through connection, not fatigue.

Horses express their emotions in a variety of ways - eyes, ears, body posture - but they also express their feelings through the way they move and the moves they make.  Dawn is extremely expressive, in lots of ways, but she's particularly expressive at times in how she moves her whole body.  She is capable of very big moves, including spectacular bucking and airs above the ground, if she is excited or upset.  (Many people say "my horse bucked me off", but what is really happening is the horse bucked and you fell off - most of the time the horse's bucking wasn't about unloading you, it was about expressing how they were feeling at the time - stress, anxiety, excitement and/or pain.)

We've been working a bit on our leading all last month - leading that isn't where I want it to be is a sign of disconnection.  Dawn's been doing pretty well with this, but we reviewed it and made sure it was precisely right.  Then we went on to ground driving - I ground drive in a regular halter.  One reason I wanted to ground drive first rather than lungeing was that having the two lines allowed me to keep her behavior a bit more managed while she was still somewhat agitated - I wanted the beginnings of our connection back before moving on to lungeing. The arena doors were open, and it was clear at the beginning that Dawn's mind was in the pasture rather than with me.   There was some fast trotting, some unrequested cantering and a lot of bucking - scooting wasn't an option due to the two lines.  Once she settled a bit and we were getting some decent trotting and better walk/trot/walk transitions, we could move on to lungeing.  We took breaks to just walk around together, and to allow me to praise her.  I knew we were getting there when she stood more relaxed and sighed to release tension.

The one-rein lungeing part of our work went pretty quickly.  She was pretty much ready to work together with me at that point, and once we were able to do some nice combinations of walk/trot/halt off my voice commands, in both directions, we were done, with lots of praise for her.  I could have gotten on at that point, but she'd ended up in such a good place with the lungeing that I decided not to and to leave it there to build on in our next session.  Tomorrow is soon enough if our lungeing work goes well - after that I probably won't do groundwork or lungeing with her before I get on.


  1. One thing about Dawn seems to be she always has a lot of energy and attitude. Sounds like a good session. Nice to end on a good note and look forward to a ride tomorrow.

    1. It's hard to believe she's almost 18!

  2. You know her well! Good thing you didn't just ride. It sure is nice that riding our horses doesn't have to be the main focus every day on the journey to partnership with them.


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