Man, I can already tell that the weekend is blurring into one huge lesson, but I'm trying hard to remember the exercises (somewhat) in order.
S and I were the first to arrive on Saturday and had those nice early morning moments with our ponies. big pats, pull blankies, feed grain, etc. There's something just so calm about going to see your horse first thing. Especially when you're away from home so they give you that nice "I know you! come give me love!" face.
love that face.
The herd was still in the dry lot they spend the night in, and it was interesting to see how the interactions over the paddock fences had settled over the evening. P2's shaving tail was my only evidence that at some point she pulled herself away and went to snooze in her stall, but something tells me she was up chatting with new friends most of the night...
The morning started with more discussion of our progress and exercises from the previous day, but quickly worked into a repeat of our standing/eating exercise, and moved into a repeat of the liberty work and finally some leading exercises.
The first leading exercise is exactly how we always start out work at the Mountain Trail event... On a rail (or fence line) and standing at the end of the lead about 6' in front of your pony. When you walk back, you open your hips, open your arm and "invite" your pony forward. When you want to stop, you exhale deeply, stop your feet and stick your arms up in the air. If the pony continues forward you shout and shake and make noise till they back off.
Again, it's reinforcing the idea that our horses can "rate" our movement without being mechanically pushed or pulled.
Most horses get this concept pretty quickly (like five minutes) assuming that us humans figure it out and hold them accountable (I always start accepting a closer and closer distance...)
Then you move to a position about 45 degrees out from their shoulder and continue the same moves. Finally, you move to a perpendicular "normal" leading position, albeit a bit farther away.
The other kicker is that Cowboy Man has placed buckets of grain/carrots/whatever around the rail so that as you work your way around you can as for a whoa at a bucket, let the horses soften, then reward them with a snack, without reaching in your pocket and moving in to them. Helps keep the mugging to a minimum.
Our afternoon exercise was to revisit the circuit around the property, this time under saddle. Repeat the standing/eating exercise while we tacked up (tacking up is yummy!) then I headed out back with two other horses while S stayed on the ground with Josh since he was still pushing his limits with the groundwork stuff.
Prairie was offended that we left her new boyfriend behind, which immediately upped her anxiety level, but so long as we stayed right behind our friend Aspen, I was able to maintain a loose rein. She felt like a powder keg, but since I wasn't having to tug on her face, I stayed on her. Had she been antsy enough that I needed to keep checking a rein, I was under strict instructions to get off and repeat the leading exercises.
Instead I tried to keep one eye on Josh and what was going on, while I serpentined my way around with P2.
Josh was being put through what Cowboy Man calls "Monkey On a String." I call it flying a kite-horse, and I absolutely abhor the feeling. Of course it usually happens to me when I'm unloading my horse at a show, or some situation when I really just want to be quiet and inconspicuous, not get into a "schooling opportunity" on basic leading.
Cowboy Man likes Monkey-On-A-String. He says it's a fabulous opportunity to reinforce your standing/leading exercises so long as you stay true to your objective and don't take a short cut. Easier said than done, but it was fun to watch him work through it. He kept Josh moving, and kept asking him to yield his hindquarters every time Josh moved without permission. If Josh didn't comply, CM moved his feet and worked to keep himself in a position of leverage (Cowboy Man notes that MOAS is a time when you usually end up "needing" your line and not to be afraid to use it to keep your Monkey, well... on the string). The priority being that you are constantly repositioning yourself and if not controlling "where" the monkey moves, at least you control when. As your horse/monkey slows and stops, you slide back into leading exercises as you can.
Josh finally figured it out and relaxed, stopped bolting and had a nice walk around the property.
I finally made my way back to the barn, feeling like P2 was ready to trot or canter around the property, but not wanting to be in charge of that particular phase of exploration. Since Cowboy was still busy with other horses I slid off, and gave the mare a break. Before Cowboy Man hopped on her, I walked down to the arena for some relaxing ride time in a setting that she's comfortable in.
Since I walked her away from her buddies to get to the ring, she was snorty and annoyed when we got there. Instead of hopping on right away we went back to our leading exercises and by the time we were down one longside, she was tuned in, relaxed and calm. I hopped on and we hacked around the arena on a loose rein. Slowly I started trotting in and out of the ring (returning to the ring when she got amped up) and expanded her circle of comfort (literally).
Finally I handed over the reins and watch CM take her around the property keeping her calm, loose and attentive.
We finished the day by grabbing P1 and repeating her work around the property. At lunch when Cowboy Man asked if there was "anything in particular we wanted to see demonstrated" I jokingly said "sure, let's jump P1 bridleless." I assumed he caught my cynical tone, but he wrote it down on the board and after a few laps around the property, into the arena they went, he dropped his lead rope (but did use a tack rein around her neck) and started weaving over some cavaletti at the walk, trot and canter. I'm so sad my phone ran out of memory, but I did grab a quick clip of the start of the session.
Look at the Pia go! She's so damn cute. even if it is more of a ground pole than a "jump" But she seemed to have fun!