Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday at the Barn

Shortly after Robin got Steen, we started spending the occasional Friday evening at the barn. It was quite relaxing. Not only was it the end of the week, but most people didn't go to the barn at that time, so we would have the place to ourselves.

We hadn't done it in awhile, but Robin had the day off (from the gallery, at least, she was busy with the BWS) and I needed to rest my arm. So to the barn we went. Becca was just finishing up the chores, so again we had an empty barn. Today's goals were similar to the last ride's, just get Sham comfortable with the routine, work on a little leading, then do an easy walk-trot ride in the arena.

When I went out to get him he was firmly entrenched at the round bale. Apparently late afternoon is meal time for him. I worried that I'd have to wade into all the horses and get him. But when I looked at him and said his name he walked right to me. Perfect. I had just finished an apple and gave him part of the core, and he was happy to have it.

In the arena he was better with leading. Robin gave me a few tricks to practice on that would make me more effective at moving him. He's used to moving others. I still can't believe that after just a few days he made himself head of the herd. How common is it to have a gelding be the head of the herd?

Anyways, we kept up the leading exercises, and it calmed him right down (although he really wasn't all that un-calm in the beginning). In the tie stall he was great. He picked his feet up so fast I almost couldn't keep up.

But he did show a little defiance in taking the bit. We tried to do it in the arena, after a little more groundwork, but he could move around too easily. He really needs his teeth done; it is pretty apparent that the headstall rubs in a way that does not feel nice. In the tie stall, though, he was quieter and I had no problems patiently working the bit into his mouth.

Under saddle he was much better than last time. There was almost no anxiety. The worst thing he'd do is try to hang out by the exit. I worked on keeping a loose rein, steering with my sit bones, using my legs, staying relaxed, not leaning forward (this usually is not a problem for me at all, but something about the way Sham moves, and maybe his low withers, just pitches me forward), and getting him to relax into the trot. He has a big trot.

I couldn't have worked on all those things without Robin. She kindly suggested each one from her cold, hard seat on the mounting block while she waited her turn to ride. But after a long day of working, she was a little tired. So we put Sham back out into the gently falling snow and headed home to warm clothes and nice bottle of wine. Tomorrow we'll give Steen a nice workout.


  1. You know, I used to think that mares would (almost) always dominate a gelding. The one time I had a mixed-gendered herd, the mares were definitely on top of the pecking order (they also had close to two decades of life experience on the geldings). However, at the barn I'm boarding at there are several top geldings, and several of the books/articles I've read on horse behavior describe herds with a gelding at the top. I think age/experience and the temperament of the horse are much more determining factors for status than gender.

  2. Erica, I think you are absolutely right about the experience thing. When we first put Sham out in the herd it was like he just didn't feel like playing their games. I kind of thought that as a ranch horse, he probably experienced all kinds of places and people and tons of different horses and herds. I think the horse herd here might be "small time" for him. Since most of them have only lived in small herds or been to the occasional show cicuit, their worlds might be narrower than Sham's.

    Either way, I'll be curious to follow his progression. Our herd tends to change a bit with the season as some of the stall horses get put out into the big pastures. It will be fun to watch the shifting dynamics.