Thursday, June 2, 2011

day five of wet blankets and long miles

Day five:

Today we ventured out of the arena and out into the world.  Before we left, however, we did some basic schooling.

Desensitizing is a big part of my program; I don't want a dull horse, but I do want one that isn't jumping out of her skin every time a plastic bag blows by.  Today, we worked with the big ball.  Not only is the ball something that looks out of place, but it also moves and makes noise... its the trifecta of scary objects! 

With any desensitization process, I start just outside of the horse's comfort zone.  If the horse seems particularly nervous of the object, I will walk away from the horse, with the object, and have the horse follow me.  By having the horse 'chase' the scary thing, he builds confidence - he'll likely start getting closer and closer as curiosity takes over.  Once some degree of confidence is established, I start working my way in closer to the horse.  Eventually, you get to the point where you can touch the horse with the object, do bigger and scarier things with it.   I don't want an unresponsive horse,  I want a horse that will relax.

 A quick ride around the arena followed.  Just working on the basics; walk trot transitions, quiet halts and back ups, and turns on the forehand. 

 Then, it was time to venture out:  Out the gate, and up the hill.

Once out, I hit the road (trails still far too muddy).  At the top of this little hill, we first double check our lateral flexion.  Making sure everything is still in working order, we go for a quiet walk. 
This isn't Stevie, but my four year old, Nick.  Didn't have the camera out for her ride, but here we are, just checking some lateral flexion before his ride out.  

Out on the ride, I like to do some sort of exercise to help Stevie focus.  Just riding in a straight line is an invitation for wandering minds.  Basically, I ride back and forth from the shoulder of the road to the center line, in a sort of a serpentine (a very rudimentary serpentine!).  I use all the same aids that we did in the arena-
  • look where I want the horse to go
  • Turn my torso so my belly button faces where I want to go
  • Apply leg pressure (light calf, increasing pressure, heel pressure...)
  • Rein
When Stevie relaxes and lets down, I allow her to walk in a straight line for a while.  When I feel her mind start to wander, her back tense up, then its right back to the serpentines.  Putting the loops closer together is good for times when she is really jumpy, spreading them out when she starts to relax.  She did very well for her first real ride out; still a bit tense with cars passing by, but only time and miles will fix that!

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