Thursday, November 11, 2010

today's ride

I started early so as not to end up riding into the night - Keil Bay was so impatient for me to let him into the barn aisle to tack up he kicked Cody's back door and broke one of the white cross-pieces off. I'm starting to wonder if my telling the Big Bay that I will be leaving for a writing retreat for 6 days was a gigantic mistake. All of a sudden it's crazy around here!

I was soaking Keil's hooves in warm water with oil of oregano (my fancy word is "oil of oregano infusion hoof bath") while I groomed him. Rafer Johnson was with us and decided to roll in the barn aisle. He ended up underneath Keil Bay's belly, one tiny donkey hoof in the infusion with Keil's hoof, and bless the Big Bay, he did not move a centimeter.

They are all full of beans right now - I watched Rafer roll and thought "oh no" - but it was fine.

Used the mounting block again today and popped right on. Suddenly it doesn't seem like all that big a deal! A good thing.

Today's challenge was the afternoon sun illuminating the now empty hay tent (see previous post for details on why it's empty) in a way that did indeed seem a bit scary. Keil was absolutely ears pricked blowing through nostrils each time we came around that end of the arena. I realized that with the sun blazing, we were both half blinded and what we could see looked very much like a huge, glowing silver ghost. I decided maybe this monster was real for Keil and tried to find some ways to approach without pushing him too hard.

Initially I simply made preemptive choices to change direction, circle to the inside, or otherwise avoid that specific corner. We did a lot of walking and then more big walking. After he was warmed up, we did serpentines along the entire arena, ending up so that the last one came up to the tent. Because he was so focused on the pattern, he didn't really have time to get scared, so that succeeded in getting us close without much reaction.

We then did some trot work on a big figure 8 using the entire arena. This too brought us close to the tent, but again, the repetition of the pattern lulled Keil into a working mode that allowed us to go right by the tent with no reaction.

We did some work on turns on the forehand/haunches that were pretty much perfect. Reinback and square halting were not as good as yesterday but I didn't belabor them.

We spent a little time playing dodge the donkey - Rafer was meandering around the arena, periodically crossing our path. This actually plugged in a little fun - when we encountered him I'd make a quick decision about where to go to avoid him and Keil had to act fast.

At the end of the ride, I dismounted and took Keil Bay over to the hay tent. He was truly alarmed by it. He walked nicely with me but was blowing as we got close. I went ahead to show him it was okay, and we stood together and gazed at it for a minute. We stood until he stopped blowing and then circled past it again, and then headed out. I walked him around to the other side to make sure he saw it from both angles with the sun shining in.

And I made him a little meal of warm timothy cubes and a few oats sprinkled on top, which he ate while I untacked and groomed. Of course as soon as I was done he marched right out to the scary hay tent and befriended it again.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Another great ride with the big bay! He's a saint to not have moved with a little donkey foot beneath him, that could have gotten interesting very fast. Scary hay tent too, of course, it was only really scary during the ride not after you took the time to make friends with the silver ghost. I like that instead of insisting he get over it, you found different ways to deal with the monster. I'll say it again he's a very good boy.

billie said...

Arlene, Keil Bay is one of those spirited but at the same time fairly sensible-minded horses who seem to be pretty savvy about managing new things and also challenges within the daily routine.

Keil has his silly moments but he generally makes good decisions when the stakes are high, like a donkey's hoof in his path - or at least decisions that are conscious, like choosing to kick a stall board in half to get a message across to a very pesky pony.

RE: dealing with the monster - I have always done a technique where you either lunge or ride the horse in circles (big ones if possible) so that you come closer to the monster with each circle but only momentarily - you come close and then circle away again.

You make a smaller circle and then gradually increase the size - it all becomes part of the exercise while at the same time approaching the scary thing.

It works really well. It allows for many little successes (leg yielding one step toward the scary area, then another, etc.) w/o pushing the horse all the way to the overload point.

I also make a point to breathe deeply in and out as I ride past the scary spot - so he feels my relaxation right at the point when his anxiety is highest.