Saturday, July 19, 2014

The First Few Rides

Nevada and I have spent the last couple of weeks really working on our groundwork.  While parts of the early sessions were a little rough for both of us, things are now going extremely well.  She is soft and happy and willing to work through problems that I present to her.  I've never spent so much time with an untouched horse before, and it is really neat to see everything you can build into them.  I'm sure I'm missing lots of stuff, too.  But so far it's great.

Um, you mean you're going to climb on my back soon?
She took to the saddle very well.  Never moved her feet as I practiced swinging it up and taking it down.  She was curious about the shiny stirrups, but not bothered at all.

Of course things changed a little when I let her go and asked her to move out.  Like most young horses, she got going pretty well and then realized the saddle might be a little scary and threw in some pretty big bucks.  She got troubled enough to try to leave the arena via the closed gate.  That didn't work.  But as soon as her plan failed she calmed down and came right to me.  We went back to working off the line and she was completely fine.  We had a few more sessions with the saddle on and she had no trouble moving out.

Last weekend we had a really long session of groundwork with a bunch of horses in the arena.  Occasionally I would pass her off to Robin and Oliver and she would pony Nevada around.  She's great friends with Oliver, and she was really comfortable following them and moving off Robin's touch with the rope or light taps with her boots/stirrups.

Everything went really well, so I decided to climb on her.  I had already stepped up in the stirrups on some of the other days.  She was a little surprised but not at all bothered.  I did that a few more times and then swung my leg over.
Her very first ride, and my very first colt-starting experience.
It was a very short ride.  We mostly worked on walking out, rolling her hind over, and just relaxing together (i.e. lots and lots of pets).  As this is the first time for both of us, I definitely did not push it., just encouraged her to try and kept things slow.  She's still such a little two year old, and I've got so much time that I'm not going to work on anything we might not be ready for.  One step at a time.  And sometimes we were literally getting one step at a time.

The next afternoon we went out to see if she was up for another ride.  The arena was busy.  Last time I waited until everyone cleared out before I climbed on, but today there were two other boarders riding as well as Robin.  Nevada was a little more curious about everything around her, but she was also still quite attentive to me.

We started with a lot more groundwork.  This time I was introducing her to the hackamore.  It definitely gives a different feel than the rope halter, but she was very quick to respond to it.  We had a slightly longer ride.  She continued to be curious about the other horses and we used them to hook on and follow them around.  I think this helped us get a much more energetic walk than we had on the previous ride.  Again we did a lot of bending, stepping the hind over, and just hanging out.  She was great.

A few days later I thought we could keep working on our rides, but she was not settled.  I don't know what it was, but from the moment I got out in the pasture she was not ready to be caught.  We worked on that and got her in, but she was still very unsettled.  I did end up saddling her, but we only did groundwork, particularly concentrating on flag stuff.  Multiple things were bothering her, but we made each issue better before calling it a day.

No riding this time, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
Today she was a completely different horse.  She was happy to see me, relaxed for grooming and tacking, and her groundwork was soft, light and she was extremely attentive.  The other day I was having a hard time getting her to stay with me.  Today she was always with me.

I climbed on again and we had another great ride.  She continued to give me more energy at the walk, and rolling her hind over is becoming increasingly natural.  She is flexing to the hackamore really well.  I started introducing a soft feel, backing a few steps, and getting the front to step over after the hind.  That last one was a little tough, but each time I tried it she got better.  We also had our first trots.  It took a little bit for me to get her into it.  My legs were not quite getting it done, but when I started reaching back to tap her on the butt, she got going.  She also got a little frightened and threw in a few hops, but she came into a very soft bend when I asked her to.

Today also happened to be Duke day, and we got all six of the horses trimmed.  It made for a long day.  I know Nevada has had her feet done before, but this was the first time we got to do it.  I've been working on her feet quite a bit, but the farrier day came up really fast.  So after our ride I introduced her to the rasp and asked her to hold her feet up a little longer. She was great.   During her trim there were lots of dogs running around and other boarders getting ready for a show, so she was pretty curious about all the distractions, but she did a great job.

I still couldn't be happier with her.  We're learning so much together, and we've got such a long, long way to go, but that makes it even more exciting.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Getting Started

Nevada has been at our place for about ten days now.  We were out of town for some of that, so I've only had a chance to work with her on four occasions.  She is proving to be a very sweet and willing little mare.  And like the few other young horses I have worked with, she picks things up very, very fast.

So far we have only done work on the line and with the flag.  I haven't saddled her yet, though that will come soon.  We are starting to get all the basics down, she is improving on backing softly each day, and initially she was a little stiff stepping under to the right, but now she's doing it very smoothly both ways.  I've been grooming her, picking up her feet and giving her lots, and lots of face pets.

In many things she is coming along so fast it is easy to get ahead of ourselves.  Today I was working her in circles with the flag, first getting the hind, then getting the front and sending her off the other way.  We had done this very slowly before, and today we were working in a bigger circle and going just a little quicker.  She started to get stuck in a few places, and I had to remind myself that we could probably work on the hind with the flag and not moving anywhere a little bit more.  We went back to that and she started moving over very nicely.  When we returned to the bigger circle, there were no more problems. I just have to remember to keep going one step at a time, and taking steps back is never a bad thing.

One thing we are still sorting out is catching.  In the four days I've worked with her it has taken between 1 minute and 55 minutes before she is ready to be caught.  They are out on nearly 15 acres of grass, and that is a lot of ground to cover when she's not ready to be with me.  But I just hang in there and slowly drive her up towards the winter lot, which is still big, but smaller than any other area.  After I catch her, going back to open the gates gives us a nice little job to do.

Today it was only 10 minutes before she was ready to be caught.  Thankfully we were finally there on a quiet day and I could use our indoor arena to practice getting her to come to me.  A round pen would be perfect, but unfortunately we don't have one of those.  When I turned her out and started sending her around me, she was pretty keen to look out the doors at her pasture mates.  But it only took a minute or two before she completely turned in towards me and was willing to hang out.  It was really hot inside, so we went back outside after that one quick session, but we did come back inside to practice getting her to come to me some more.  She learned the lesson really fast.  I had her coming up to me from each direction, and she couldn't have been happier following me around the arena.  This should help some when I go out to meet her in the pasture next time.

She is settling into the herd nicely, too. We have a rather cliquish band of mares out there, but she is more interested in hanging out with the geldings and Jester, our resident pony.  He always seems to take on the new comers and show them the ropes.

She is a really nice, and relaxed filly.  I can't wait to keep working with her and see what kind of a horse she turns into.  She's pretty little right now, but her parents are very good sized.  And from some angles you can see she's got a really big hip on her with wide, square legs.  I think she should turn out to be right around 15 hands and quite stout, which would be perfect for me.  That is exactly how I like 'em.