Yesterdey we had a new mare arrive. While the mare was being walked off after the ride in the trailer, the herd was observing her over the fence, and Snickers was the most interested of them all. He was pressing against the wooden fence, pawing the ground, nickering and arching his neck like a stud. When the mare was finally put in the barn, Snickers had the opportunity to sniff her and both of them seemed to get along.
However, when we went outside to do some groundwork, all of Snickers' thoughts were with the mare and he didn't want to concentrate at all. We did a couple of things, but I was getting increasingly frustrated, so I decided to call the session off for the night - it wouldn't have done any good to us anyway. Just to end in good spirits, I asked Snickers for a couple of easier things - climbing on objects, stretching, putting his forelegs, one at a time, on a little log, and finally he let me stretch his forelegs really well. Should think of new groundwork ideas for our next session, so I don't get sucked into routine.
I got Snick's back measured and it really looks ridiculously wide! Not really sure, where I'll get a saddle that fits him. It's even wider than the Extra Extra Wide gullet for the Thorowgood Cob saddle.
Visited Snickers yesterday evening and was surprised by a rain/snow/hail fall. Weather in November is sometimes horrible around here. It's snowing/hailing right now as I write as well, and you've got my bet it all melts before noon!
Anyway. As it was so unpleasant outside, I took Snickers from his shelter/paddock and we went to do a little target training in the barn aisle. A sorry replacement for an indoor arena, but hey, you have to be flexible! Snickers was curious to greet the horses in their box stalls and to sniff around a little, but in general he was very responsive and interested. I noticed that he seems to see his bright blue target much better than his red one. Will try other colors in time as well. He was a bit impatient in our vocabulary lesson, I'll have to think of a better way to explain him this task. However, he was brilliant at targeting as such - ready to target anything, anywhere - and we agreed on a very nice back up.
I usually have this sequence of cues - energy/intention - body language - a tap with my stick, if needed, but this time I hid the stick behind my back (intending to use it only if I had to block intrusion in my personal space or to wake him up in case he decided to ignore me) and, instead of using it, used just a light movement of a lowered finger. Worked brilliantly, Snickers was ready to back up the whole length of the barn aisle! And, after backing up, he came to his blue target in a brisk pace. It is true that it is just us who need the additional tack and cues, not the horses - they read us perfectly, if we are clear enough.
Meanwhile, it had stopped snowhailraining, so we went outside. I had the same intention to use my focus/energy/body language more and to use my tack less, and Snickers continued being brilliant. We worked on direction changes and gait transitions (just walk-trot, as it was too slippery to canter), on shoulder-in and on disengaging/turning the forequarters. Everything went lighter and more pleasant than before and I was really pleased both with Snickers and with myself. Snickers, too, was being very expressive and moved in an energetic, yet relaxed manner, engaging his hindquarters more than he often does. Success!
Working on his manners at hand feeding is also paying off. He now turns his head away as soon as he sees a treat coming and doesn't even bother to nudge with his lips, as he used to do before. An owner of one of Snicks' buddies, who also live in the shelter with him at nights, confused Snickers with her horse in the darkness as he was handing out the treat - his behavior was that polite and gentle. :) To some people it might seem like nothing at all, but it's a great step up for a horse who is naturally pushy and food motivated!
^^Isn't it though?^^ I've been reading since day 1, and just love it! You should view some of Saranda's videos on Youtube - "My Dark Horse Of Light" and "Midsummer Dream" are in my favorites....
** Any snow in your region, ecasey? Well over 2 ft here, and still coming down! I believe the Latvian winters are similar.....almost parallel.
Oh my, sorry for being gone for a while! I should keep you updated. We had snow. Lots of snow. For a week in the beginning of December. Then it became warm again and it all melted away. :(
So, what have we been up to...
I got another horse to work with. An older broodmare who is terrified mostly of anything a human does and her feet are in such a horrid condition that a trim would be urgent, but she doesn't let anyone touch her hooves. My mission is to gentle her and to teach her lift and hold her feet. After two sessions she can now hold still while standing by my side, lower her head, let me touch her with a whip and a rope all over her body and I can slide a rope down and around her pasterns and jiggle it. At first she fought that violently, but a little approach and retreat settled her down. She is also learning to be caught and is extremely sensitive to any pressure at all - even if it's just breathing faster, so she's an excellent teacher of self control and inner peace.
I've also been working with Red, the filly and the nervous gelding. They have all been making good progress, although I had a little setback with the filly, because she was taken for a couple of walks by other people who let her dominate, so she tried that with me as well the last time we worked. But nothing too hard. I'm falling in love with Red, he's such an intelligent, wonderful horse who just wants to please and to be understood.
As for Snickers... :) So, we've been working mostly from the ground, as I hadn't bought a new saddle for most of this time. We tried a few, but none fit, until the very last one - a Passier jump/AP saddle which fit flawlessly! I bought it, but I'm still not riding, though, just love to see Snicks happy from the ground.
He has had huge progress in relaxing his body and front legs in particular, so the last few hoof trims went almost without any resistance by him. I've been massaging him and doing stretches, and we've had the equine masseuse visit us a couple of times, so it's definitely benefiting him big time.
We've had a couple of new geldings arrive, both lookalikes of Snicks, and he welcomed them warmly. I love having such a friendly horse! :) We've been working on ground driving, groundwork and lunging (over ground poles, jumps and with the chambon as well), and on Christmas Snicks was a part of the barn Christmas parade, where he had to pull a log, while being ground driven - that's an old tradition, from the belief that pulling a log around your homestead and then burning the log will bring prosperity and protection for the rest of the year. So Snicks pulled the log as a champ all around the whole Botanical garden. :)
Not only he pulled a log, but, when we had snow for that one week, I made a DIY harness and hitched him up to a kiddy sleigh. He was great and I drove him all over the closest property! He spooked once (Oh no, the DEER are coming!) and he took of at canter out of pure fun once more, but it was completely manageable and we had tons of fun in the snow.
We've had some bareback rides in the arena and in the trails as well. It was fun to ride when the snow was deep - Snickers was eager to canter and hopped through the snow as a bunny. :)
We've been also going on lots of walks in hand out in the trails and, lately, it's going on more and more in liberty. We're often accompanied by a horse who is recovering from a tendon injury, so he can be walked by the lead line only, but Snicks is set loose then and frolics around in these days as happy as a horse can be - shaking his manes, snaking his neck, bucking and galloping, jumping ditches and kicking bushes out of sheer joy. And, all the time - following me. That's the best feeling in the world, when you turn away from the herd, the pastures, and your horses' eyes turn to follow you. :)
Thanks, Northenstar! :)
Traditionally, people pull the log in a long procession, but why not give a horse the job! Snickers always becomes very serious and dedicated, when he gets to pull something, and tomorrow I'm going to get a sleigh and a harness collar, so my harness will be complete! Now for the snow...
Today it didn't stop raining. Oh well, I got my raincoat on and went for a lovely trail walk, which ended up to be more than 2 hours long. We were accompanied by one of Snicks' best buddies and his owner, who is a close friend to me.
At first, I lead Snicks on-line and we did a little bit of groundwork in a nearby field - flexing on a circle, transitioning to trot, sidepassing, trying to do this all as lightly as possible. On our way to the next field, I asked Snicks to jump a ditch a couple of times, which he did with enthusiasm, and, in the next field, I took the lead line off and offered him to follow me at liberty. Which he did, sticking close to my side, trotting, walking, stopping and turning, all with a happy expression and a sweet look in his eyes. What more could I wish for! :) As we went on, he saw a little stretch of dirt over a ditch and between a high fence and a tree growth, which he hadn't visited before, so he went on and jumped the ditch, then exploring the place curiously. He spent a couple of minutes there, then jumped the ditch back, shaking his head, bouncing with fun and trotting back up to me. :)
Further on, Snicks cantered ahead of us and raced between some pine trees, finally settling down to graze. That made him disconnect a little, as he wanted to stay grazing, so he didn't hurry to catch up and I decided to put the lead line back on, as I didn't want to encourage disconnection in trails. He followed me without hesitation and without napping, and we visited a large pond with rather steep banks. I asked him to go down to the shoreline and enter the pond, which he did, but not without snorting and pawing at the water. He then submerged his nose in the pond and blew some bubbles - one of his favorite games in the water - and then agreed to jump up the bank back to me, and to repeat this circle once more.
Later, we found a growth of spurce trees where some of them were cut off. We used the remaining stumps for Snickers to put a leg on or climb on them with his forelegs and pivot around with his hindlegs. The stumps were small, so he really had to concentrate to keep his front legs in one spot. He also followed me under spurce branches that were hanging down very low as a thick curtain, and, turning on our way home, he gladly jumped a couple of ditches again, doing it with energy and precision.
During the barn Christmas party, we had left some apples hanging on low tree branches for the deer, but the deer hadn't touched them, so I showed the apples to Snickers. He was very surprised and very happy, and munched down a couple of them in a heartbeat. Would have munched down ALL of them, if I had let him do that.
Back at the barn, we were greeted by a young, cute gelding, neighing anxiously at Snickers. He arrived a couple of days ago and was instantly adopted by Snicks, who always greets the newcomers and protects them during their first weeks in their new home. This one has taken a great liking in Snicks and seems to follow him around like a puppy. :)
My QH, Star, was boarded briefly when I acquired her until we finished building the barn and fencing...all new horses coming to the stable were put directly with her, as she played the role of 'Auntie'.... she truly did take them all under her wing as you see with Snickers, and it was so neat to see! They all looked to her for direction. Also, I must say that I had a 'nod and a smile' when reading this : "That's the best feeling in the world, when you turn away from the herd, the pastures, and your horses' eyes turn to follow you." :)
Today I used the opportunity to do some trailer training with Snickers. He was actually so eager to get in that he tried lifting the butt chain with his head and to dive under it while I tried to unhitch it. When it was finally wide open, we at first practiced Snickers loading by himself, while I wait outside. He loaded well, but stepped outside right after loading the first few times. I finally caught a good moment to praise and he remembered that he has to wait in the trailer, after which everything went effortlessly. So I took off his lead line and we did the same at liberty. He loaded like a pro without me going in the trailer and stood patiently while I went to the other side of the trailer and greeted him through the door. :) Finally, I jogged into the trailer and he followed me, then staying there calmly while I hopped out and asked to unload by touching his hip. What a wonderful boy he is! Here's a little video of his progress -
I then trained the nervous gelding to load in the trailer, as he suddenly had started refusing when his rider asked him to load and, although he was quite upset at first, I managed to calm him down enough so that he loaded once. Will have to practice.
Finally, I mounted Snickers, tacked up in the bareback pad, and followed two of my friends with Snicks' buddies on a short trail walk. When we reached a distant field, I trotted and cantered there a little, then dismounted for a moment of groundwork (transitions from a straight line to sidepassing or shoulder-in), and after that we let our horses graze until it got very dark and it was time to go home.