Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mountain Trail Clinic: Day 3

Day 3 started with the usual rousing to get to the barn and feed/water the beasts at a decent hour.  Of course, without a 8:30am dressage time to panic over my idea of a "decent hour" is something around 8 or 9am...after at least two cups of coffee.

Yet again, the ponies were happy and calm when we arrived.  P ate, pooped, and drank consistently the entire time.  I did shove a tube of probiotics in her since the switch from pasture + hay to full hay seemed to.. uhh "disrupt" things a tad, but that was all it took.

Saturday added "cow sorting" to the option of classes available to take, which meant that the usually empty warm up ring was full of cows and women learning to sort and rope as well as a few extremely wild eyed horses.

Cowboy Man grabbed May and I grabbed P in order to take them for a morning walk through all the mayhem.  P was concerned and about as amped up as I'd seen her thus far.  she was snorting and her ears could not decide if they needed to focus on the donkeys braying, the cows mooing or the extremely disturbing hay-bales-with-a-head being manhandled in the roping practice...

Once we settled on the far side of the cow pen, she started to calm down and even went so far as to start sniffing and nibbling on the cows pressed up on the other side of the fence.  Apparently P needs a chew toy in nearly every situation.  in her stall, in the field... on the trail (this usually comes in the form of chewing on the horse in front of her) and apparently while watching cows.  One cow finally got sick of her "explorations" and shot a little kick at her.  P was horrified  that it could kick, but after a few swift snorts, she settled back down again.

After that, The Boy joined us and we headed out to the field to let the horses graze a bit and relax.  Apparently the wide open space was just as enticing to humans, because The Boy asked if he could take P for a "jog."

uhhhh sure... I thought as I eyeballed P's chain-less nose and The Boy's converse footwear... go for it.

Well go for it he did and P just jogged (and loped!) along side of him.  I think I must have been PMSing, or just totally emotional cause I swear to god I started to get choked up.  I mean, here was my (non-horsey) guy meandering around all easy-breezy with my supposedly difficult mare like it was the most natural thing in the world.
you can't really tell, but she's continuing to move better and better...

It was honestly really fun to watch him enjoying her so much...
After a while, the cavaletti that were strewn about were apparently just as irresistible to The Boy as they would have been to me.  (glad to know I'm not the only one) So he started scampering around with the mare and seeing what she would do.  I'm not going to claim that she looks like some athletic superstar here (it's a cavaletti..), but it was so damn cute to watch them!  Plus P's shoulder really is starting to loosen up a bit.  It's way less restricted than it was back in May.

and just cause I couldn't stop taking crappy iphone videos... P caved in with her shoulder a bit and he even corrected her! Superstars... the both of them.

After I was done GUSHING over the two of them, I rewarded myself with another delicious grilled cheese (the amount of american cheese & butter & bread that I can consume is staggering) before saddling up the horses for another afternoon giddy up.

While Cowboy Man was working with a few of the other horses The Boy asked if he could "sit on P."  Mind you, I have NEVER seen this boy on a horse and realistically the most discussion we've ever had regarding the issue has centered on the point that he loves horses but "thinks riding is weird and isn't interested in ever ever doing it."

But, nevertheless, up he went.  P was a good girl.  She scooted around a couple times, but I think that might have been due to the apparent death clamp that The Boy had going on with his legs.  I should have handed P off to someone else so as to capture this rare moment on film (err.. phone), but I didn't think of it, so the moment has just to live on through lore and legend...  When it was Cowboy Man's turn to leg up, P was a good girl.  Even less squirrely than the day before and just as forward and pleasant. 

Then... as he brought P back around Cowboy asked if I was ready to go for a ride.  I probably looked like a kid on Christmas morning because I'm pretty sure I bounced up onto my mare as fast as possible and grinned like an idiot the entire time.  That's not to say that I wasn't nervous as hell (where did that come from), but the nerves were easily outweighed by the happiness of being back on P.

Cowboy Man legged up on May (who hasn't been ridden since she was "rescued" and brought to the farm) which was curious.  May has a tendency to go up before anything else, so there were a few interesting hops/rears/leaps, before she decided that everything was ok and she could handle it... I took note that May was apparently not in a bridle.  let me repeat.  NOT IN A BRIDLE.  rope halter and a lead line.  uhhh yeah.

I seriously enjoy watching Cowboy Man work, but I am learning to appreciate more and more that there are just some steps in his training pyramid that I don't ever feel a need to master.  Riding a still traumatized horse with a penchant for rearing with a rope halter out in an open field might be pretty high on that list...

Once May was calm and ready, we took off to ride the perimeter of the field.  P was calm (mostly), forward (yay!) and happy (even better).  It took me about 10 minutes to actually start breathing and relax, but once I did enjoy every minute of it.  We explored a few fields, a gorgeous hazelnut tree grove and some irrigation ditches.  P amped up a couple of times (usually when May got excited about something), but each time she came back quickly and quietly much to my satisfaction.

45 minutes later we were back to the barn and I felt like a million dollars.  The morning fog was deciding to turn into a cold wet mist that had us all pretty chilled, so we called the ride and let the ponies go back to their stalls while we ate (more) and watched the classes go.

Finally, around 6pm we tacked P up again with the intent of having Cowboy Man work some of the obstacles under saddle.  Classes were using the main arenas until 7, but we had access to the warm up ring (cows and all) which seemed like a good place to start.

P decided that her string of exceptional behavior was tediously boring, so she came out of the stall snorting, anxious and fiery.  Cowboy Man responded by working her along the wall, asking her to tune in and pay attention.  Anytime her ears and eyeballs locked on something other than him, or if she bulged in with her shoulder, she got sent around in a mini lunge circle a few times, then put back up against the wall.  P started to focus (albeit slooooowly) so we went to bridle her up and start things under saddle.

P, ever loving brat that she is, noticed that there was a brief moment between halter off and bridle on, which she took as a perfect opportunity to attempt to bolt and go find her friends in the main ring.  Cowboy Man managed to hang on (via lead rope around her neck) and wrangle the mare back, but not without a few slightly mortifying chants of "looooose horse! looooose horse!"

I found myself actually responded with "she's only mostly loose! not actually a loose horse! we're ok! it's fine!"  sigh...

Anyway, back to the wall she went with plenty of more circles.  The "tuneup" ended up taking up the rest of the hour, which meant that the main ring was available so we wandered over and started working in that space.  P settled eventually and I started working some of the bigger obstacles we hadn't tackled yet.

Most of note was P's attempt at the super deep "L" ditch that presented May with so many problems the night before.  P stopped, sniffed, snorted... then walked right on into the damn thing with a little bit of trepidation, but then rounded the corner and marched out like a champ.  The second time through I asked her to pause in the deepest part and she calmly obliged.  Champion!

After that we made our way over to the advanced ring which was SWARMING with horses.  The atmosphere got to P a little bit but she held it together and seemed to relax more when I was asking her to work than when I was simple wandering around.  The Boy took May again and had fun leading her all over the place.  P had a few moments of trying to tune me out, which made for a bit of a struggle, but we worked through it.

The hardest thing for me is not to back pedal and rely on the "tension" of my lead rope, but instead stay with the body language and enforce my requests without yanking on her nose.  I caved a few times, especially when P was trying to rush through obstacles, but we improved, and eventually finished the evening on a good note on a nice loose lead.

We managed to put the horses to bed by 9:30, which was early by our previous standards and left plenty of time for a few martinis back at the hotel while we discussed the continued victories of the weekend...


  1. I'm so excited for you. It sounds like this has been the most amazing experience for you two. :)


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