|P says she's sick of posing like this. Find a new angle...|
Not too surprising, I think she had a blast. Since she's looking at the farm from a future client perspective we started with a full tour and explanation of the process which, realistically I haven't observed (or heard) since I took P last year. I know I've expanded on it before, and it's hard not to sound like a cult-driven-zealot, but it really is so inspiring and fun to listen to Cowboy Man talk about his approach and his successes.
It's even more fun when we have that chat as we meander through the middle of the herd watching all the individuals and their dynamics within the group. I don't think I will ever tire of standing in the middle of a large group of horses watching their energy shift and move as they float around from grassy spot to grassy spot.
Anyway, S seemed engaged and interested and CM had fascinating stories to tell. Then we continued the introduction by grabbing one of the mares and heading back to the barn.
Our "volunteer" from the herd was China, who is the only horse on the property who was more difficult to integrate socially than Miss Pia herself. China was bred for dressage, but ended up having a pretty spectacular H/J career before totally shutting down and resorting to going vertical instead of forward. After two years on the farm she's lively, engaged and totally confident. It's a pretty cool thing to see.
China's demonstration for us included a liberty walk back to the barn. Standing free for her snacks, a toe trim and tacking up, then demonstrating her liberty work with obstacles, toys, and mirroring down in the ring. Finally there was some bridle-less under saddle work that to me is less about trick riding and more about having a horse totally on your side and willing to participate.
From a distance, all of the tasks are fairly impressive, but when you really watch the process and how every single moment that Cowboy Man is working with a horse he is actively shaping their connection and managing their dynamic. It's so much damn fun to observe.
Anyway, after China was done demonstrating how adorable she was, we went and grabbed P along with a few other ponies to work with for the day and started tacking up. P still looks great. her weight is good, her muscles are healthy and her eyeball looks soft, but mischievous.
We tacked up and opted to head to the back field and do some gait work along the fence line, focusing on each horse working as an individual and trying to rely on our reins as little as possible. You might recall us having worked this exercise about 6 months ago on another visit.
Basically, starting at one side of the property we trot off (one at a time) about 100 yards to where we whoa back trying to only use seat/legs/breath and then give the ponies a bite of delicious grain. Wait patiently for the other horses to catch up, then trot off tot he next bucket of goodies.
For Wendy, my big girl that I like to ride - the challenge is in waiting for the others to catch up. For P, it's trying not to explode when trotting off in a big space. For S's mount it was about tuning in and listening..
We had a lot of fun, Wendy was a good girl and even P made some progress (although the bucks were.... evident).
Then we moved away from the fence line and took the ponies into the aspen trees and "surfed" them around the trunks - again, trying to steer all from seat and legs and using the reins minimally. Wendy was a good girl, and I hardly had to touch her face. S had more of an adventure as her pony hadn't been ridden in a while and the half-halt was all but missing. But S stayed off the bridle and just worked with the horse she had. P was.... explosive. Cowboy Man has mentioned before that typically it's much more difficult for the horses to focus "at home" as opposed to out on the trails since the herd is present and makes it that much harder to keep their attention... I think this is what was happening with P. She was having a hard time relinquishing her group of friends in favor of focusing on the ride and that led to extra angst and energy when we were galloping about. CM mentioned that he feels like P is getting uncomfortable again in her withers, and even pointed out that her "nutcracker" muscles (right at the base of her neck) we looking a little hyper developed. You can see them in the shot of P up above... a bit more definition than has been there, and almost reminiscent of when she arrived at the farm... something to keep an eye on, especially if it indicates P trying to compensate for some discomfort...
After about 45 minutes of playing around we gave the ponies a break and headed back to the barn for some lunch.
|heading in for lunch (P1 is on the right..)|
Finally we ran off to our ferry and gave all the mares plenty of treats and returned them to their group.
I didn't play with P as much as I usually do, but I also spent more time working on "me" and my contribution more than I usually do, which has an incredible value as well.
S seemed to really enjoy her visit. We spent the whole car ride talking about how to apply various aspects of CM's approach with less "critical" cases back at the barn. We also daydreamed about setting up a sort of adult summer camp where we'd have a multi-day clinic with both my vet and CM discussing ground work, hoof care, body work and basically everything else that goes on out at the farm...
S also empathized with why I'm bitter sweet about bringing P home. I think she could see why I really enjoy going over there on a regular basis and how sad it would be to miss out on those days spent out in the herd/field/woods exercising a totally different side of my horsey-brain.
All in all, a fabulous day. P is cute, and we learned lots!