Monday, February 20, 2012

Lunging, Ground Driving, and Head Lowering

I spend a good four hours with Flash and Snickers yesterday. Susan turned them out on the pasture with the rest of the herd Saturday, so I was prepared for them having plenty of bites and still working out the pecking order. However, when I got there, I was very pleased to see them eating side by side :) I watched them for a while, and it seems that while Flash is at the bottom of the pecking order (no surprise there), Snickers doesn't take crap from the other horses and is somewhat dominant. What's nice about that is, since Snickers and Flash like one another, Flash is like his little buddy and is fairly safe as long as he's next to Snickers :) Yay!

I was going to ride Snickers first and work with Flash second, thinking that Flash would be easier, but since they were just fed and I wanted to do some clicker work with Flash, I grabbed him so he'd still be hungry. Mr. Flash has gotten quite attached to Snickers and visa versa haha. They kept whinnying back and forth and you can hear them both quite well because the barn really isn't that far from the pasture. Anyway, I groomed Flash pretty well and combed out his mane and tail. I think there are more dead ticks coming out, but if there are still some left when I get back in town at the end of this week, I'm going to spray him down again. Since he's such a fluff ball, I may just have to wait until he sheds out some, especially on his chest. Plus, that'll make them a lot easier to see! I'm going to get the grooming kit I want today and I'm way excited about that. Brushing him down yesterday made me want it that much more :)

I picked up a lunge line Saturday so we worked with that afterward. I got him going pretty good to the left, even loping, but he has a hard time going to the right. I kept on having to shorten the rope up and pull his head right and tap him to get him to move, but eventually I just gave up. To the left, though, he's getting better at loping when I tell him to! I was making him lope for a while then clicking, rather than simply clicking for loping right when I told him to. I think he's starting to get it. I'm hoping he does before I get on (this summer??), but if not, maybe it'll be easier then to get him to respond to cues? Or maybe the ground driving will help - it sure should with stopping and backing!

Then on to ground driving, which is what the majority of the video is about because we had a hard time getting going. He fought it quite a bit and had a hard time, but we never got into any real trouble. It was just hard seing him frustrated and confused, especially when he got all the way turned around facing me and so the line was pulling on his back legs. He backed quite a bit, so I know he's got an impressive back haha! The toughest part was just getting him to go straight forward so I could give him slight cues to turn back and forth - he kept getting turned around and confused so I had to keep turning him back and forth and he never really got the "reward" of just being able to move forward. I saw a video for clicker training where someone walks with a target in front and clicks and treats and you phase in the cues for turning and whatnot, but I unfortunately just have me and clicking from behind and not having a target to follow didn't seem to work very well and I eventually just didn't worry about the clicker, especially since about the same time I grabbed the lunge whip to try and simply move him forward, which worked decently. Toward the end he seemed to get it all right. I was glad no one was in the arena at that point because we really needed the whole thing! Trevor is coming out with me today and said he might be able to lead with the target but couldn't feed him, so maybe that will help and I can just click and treat. However, I think he'll probably still be nervous and I told him that if he's nervous at all, I don't want him to worry about helping since that will just make Flash nervous anyway. Anyway, after forty minutes of semi difficult ground driving, Flash was done and I brushed him down. Between that and the lunging, he'd worked up quite a sweat and was ready for a break. I'm going to try to have a shorter session today and not worry about lunging so much since I really want him to focus on this ground driving.

Next was Snickers, who decided to walk away from me at first. It's hard to catch him sometimes because he wants to sniff and greet me so he's directly in front of me, but backs up if I move toward him so I can't get to his neck. It didn't take me more than a minute or two to catch him, though - I brought him a handful of hay to distract him (even though he didn't eat it) while I moved to his neck and got the lead rope around. What's nice about having these two is, so far, even though I can have a difficult time with one, the other one makes up for it and works really well, which is what happened yesterday so I'm glad Snickers ended up second. I brushed him down and lunged him really well - he's a super easy lunger! And he REALLY moves at that trot haha. It's faster than Rocket's lope I'm sure, so I'll have to really get comfortable on it. Seeing him move out like that made me want to focus just on getting him soft instead of slowing him down, because that's how he needs to move for endurance anyway. I should be focusing on that first, anyway, and we can worry about slowing down for pleasure later. Just the basics for now! Come to think of it, we didn't work on getting Rocket to slow down until much later and it took a while when we did. Anyway, maybe because he was out of a stall and able to move around, because he'd been worked there before pretty hard, there wasn't any horses there, it was the afternoon, or whatever, but he was much quieter. I brushed him down and saddled up, and off we went! We walked around the whole arena and he still wanted to look at EVERYTHING but was much less spooky. (He did spook a few times later on, but that was because something moved or flew out or a new noise and then settled down right away). We did a LOT of trotting and he hasn't forgotten his draw rein lesson from Friday, and neither have I. I worked on posting and was a lot more controlled (though I still feel like I'm moving around more than I want to), so I was able to hold his head tight and then release when he dropped it, which he did consistently. He started out really fast and slowed down more toward the end (tired much?), but I worried more about his head than anything. We did lope a decent amount to, and I'm really trying to get my seat for that. He switches leads really easily, though not as consistently as I'd like, so I'll have to keep giving big cues with my weight and reigns like I do with Rocket. It's just hard when he's moving so FAST!! Oh well, we're getting there. I was very happy with our ride :) We did a lot of small loping circles to slow down, too, and even worked so hard my saddle started slipping, but he stood still for me while I readjusted - thank goodness! That's something I really want to get him good at for the endurance trail.

To cool down, we took a ride out and about Dusty Acres. It was probably just because he was tired, but he did a good job staying relatively relaxed and focused on me. We rode past Flash twice (who nickered at us both times!) and all the way around the barn. Then we went a little down the road and found the BLM access, which we rode for a little ways (not out of sight of the barn though), and then back. He really impressed me and I'm very excited about working with him on trails, but after my fall off him, I got a bit of a reality check and would rather not go by myself. I'll figure that out when the time comes, though. I'm a little nervous about trotting on the trails due to all the holes, so I'll have to do some exploring and get familiar with where it would be safe to trot. Most impressive, though, was that he was a little nervous about a giant tumbleweed sitting in the middle of the trail and a very narrow gate at the barn with a big, bright coil of wire and some other stuff sitting around it, but with a little patience and prompting, he walked past them just fine - we even walked past the tumbleweed a few more times and it didn't bother him at all after that first time!

Well, that's about it - I have a decently long video since I recorded all the ground driving work with Flash - I cut out anything you couldn't see too well but that's it. Hopefully he does better today and I'll have a little better lighting for recording. This way I can look back and see the improvement - hopefully even a little today since it won't be brand new and (maybe) I'll have Trevor's help to give him a direction to go. We'll see! I gotta go do some work now so I'll have time to get my grooming set and go ride. I really want to get it in before leaving tomorrow, since I won't be back until VERY late Friday! It'll likely be a week before I can ride again :( Oh well. Later!

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