Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back to Beginnings

I had a great evening out at the barn last night.  Mondays tend to be pretty quiet anyway, but there seems to still be a bit of a hangover from Daylight Savings and not everyone has returned to ride in the dark and cold. 

My girls were waiting patiently by the gate when I arrived and I realized that there were a lot of things about "two horses" that I haven't really considered - Who do I work with first? does the other one stay out in the pasture? come in? if they come in, who do I take in first? does it matter? probably not... but still...

Since their third pasture mate was already in for the night I didn't want to leave a lone P out to run amok.  I briefly contemplated the thought of leading them both at the same time, but figured I might want to save that maneuver for when they've known each other a little longer and Pia feels a bit more at home..

Since P2 is used to the place I grabbed P1 first and ambled slowly back to the barn with lots of halts and backing on the way.  She was good.

P2 was moderately patient about being left behind.  She has a really cute head waggle that she does when she's impatient.  It's not the worst bad habit I've seen but I also try to not to encourage it... regardless any time your horse looks like they are waving to you and nickering for you to hurry up and come get them I think it's moderately adorable. 

But on our walk back, P2 was pushier than P1, so we had a few "opportunities" for some leading exercises as well as we made our way to the barn (and all of her friends).

If there was any doubt as to whether the mares would become horrifically attached to each other - it's been answered (repeatedly.  and loudly).  Pia was anxiously nickering and shoving her head out of her stall trying to find Prairie when we walked into the barn aisle.  Prairie answered her, but went in her stall and shut up like a good kid.  I'm hoping Pia figures that move out soon.

My goal with Pia for the night was to start putting in place the consistency and relaxation that P1 had at Summer Camp.  So I made up a hot mash and placed it in our wash rack, looking to replicate Cowboy Man's initial "standing" exercise that he often works for new horses at the farm.  P's anxiety about the wash rack from Sunday was totally gone and the arrival of a familiar snack seemed to trigger her memory of the standing game. 

I didn't think to snap on my lunge line so I could really stand at a distance, but I think I'll try to remember that in the future. 

P was good, and didn't think to start pushing out on my space until after she had finished her snack (typical).  I got a few good moments of calm standing without any attempts to push her boundaries and then we went for a property walk. 
Snack (and standing) Time
Our farm is laid out nicely with good "alleys" between all the paddocks making for lots of routes to explore and paths to zig zag around.  It was dusk when we headed out and a neat/creepy fog was settling in over all the grass which sorta put me on edge but Pia stayed pretty relaxed. 

The only indication of tension was that when we did halt, she immediately stopped paying attention to me and started staring intently at everything.  Her current interruption to regain focus is to hold your fist back under their chin (like you have a treat) and ask her to "soften".  CM teaches all the horses that they only get treats when they flex and soften up, but eventually he stops treating them and just uses it as an interruption to get their attention.  P wasn't so interested in the "softening" (even for a real treat), but she was still very responsive to "head down" which is also a good attention release and results in eating grass. 

So I used that as my relaxation method and we worked our way around the farm.  P puffed up and snorted loudly at an ugly stump, but after a few requests to "touch,"  She marched right up to the thing stuck her nose all over it and instantly deescalated. 

That was it for Miss P.  I worked on grooming her a bit in her stall while she ate and tried to be big and dominating if she pinned her ears or wanted to get possessive.  She was pretty good, but still a bit of a snake.  I think that will be an ongoing issue for us, especially as she spends more and more time in a stall again.

P2 meanwhile had been munching her dinner and displayed equal joy (and volume) upon P1's return to the barn.  But when I swapped my attentions and pulled P2 out for a ride, P2 got quiet and calm and P1 resumed the concern for being abandoned.  At least (right now) they both seem to focus well as long as they are the one doing the leaving.  I'll be curious to see how this little friendship develops. 

I put P2 in her jump tack even though I only intended to ride on the flat because I've been feeling like my leg is more effective and secure in my shorter stirrups again (somehow that statement flip flops between my dressage length and jump length like twice a year.. I've never entirely understood why).  She was feeling a bit strong in terms of momentum, not contact - so I worked hard on trying to rate her down to where we were in our lesson with Nancy a couple weeks ago.  Working in the indoor arena is very, very good for keeping us honest with our rhythm and our balance since Prairie eats up the long side pretty damn fast with her big stride...

All in all it was a great day.  Two horses is going to be a very different routine, but at least last night I really enjoyed making myself switch gears and focus on different goals with each of the girls.  

loving it.


  1. I'm interested to see what you're going to do when you're able to ride both of them! You should be kept busy - but a fun busy! That's my dream...

  2. I can't even imagine trying to keep up with two, yikes. Good luck!

  3. I hope that P continues to settle nicely and that your rides with P2 continue to get better and better! :)

  4. Sounds like fun! I'm glad Pia is settling in. You'll figure out a routine in now time. :D


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