I was having a lousy friggin' day, let me tell you. Woke up still feeling the tail end of this stupid chest cold. I wasn't coughing too much, but my lungs still felt bad and some kind of phlegmy grossness was making my stomach feel sick and kind of killing my appetite. My mood was in the gutter from that, the current political situation, stress from business stuff, family stuff, this upcoming trip down to the gift show... Ughhhhh.
As my lesson had to be cancelled yesterday due to arena flooding, I figured I probably wouldn't get a chance to horse until the end of next week, but this afternoon I decided that, NO, I will go HORSE today!!
I went out to my coach's stable, at her house. There are two boarder horses there that aren't really being worked with much, so I have free rein (har har) to work with them and ride them whenever I get the chance. The pony is still coming off an injury, but the horse is sound and fine -- just bossy! Both of them need some work on their manners. The pony is young-ish and still quite green. She's actually been broke and re-broke because she sat unridden for so long! The horse is not green, but hasn't had much done with her in the last few years, and will totally bulldoze you and disrespect your space if she gets anxious or impatient.
I did a little work with both today. First I checked out the footing to see if riding seemed feasible, but it was pretty deep snow with a hard crust on top that was hard to walk over and punch through, so I opted not to ride. No problem! Time for grooming and a little in-hand work.
The pony was first to greet me at the gate, and seemed like a sweetie (I hadn't actually handled her before), so I decided to grab her first. I got her out and led her around a bit. She was looky and distracted and whenever I stopped her on the lead, she'd pop her shoulder over into my space, which from what I've read is a foal-age holdover and a go-to for young horses who feel insecure. Well, that wasn't cool. So I'd elbow or shove her over each time, and after some leading, turning, stopping, etc., she got the message and stopped doing it.
I brought her inside and groomed her in the cross ties, then went to work on her mane as she had some SERIOUS elf locks going on. I got almost all of them out, but her mane has such a greasy and coarse texture that it was only going to happen all over again. My coach came in while I was working on her and advised that we just cut it. With that okay, we went for it and I did a pretty rough trim. When she's a bit more chilled out about being handled, and if/when my mane comb ever turns up, I'll pull it to thin it and make it look a LOT better! We trimmed her forelock and tail a little bit too.
The pony is super cute. She's a chestnut with that same flaxen/dark gray mixed mane and tail that Razz had, though with a lot more gray. She also has an Appaloosa blanket pattern. I think I was told at some point that she's Appy/Arab? Anyhow, super super cute. Around 14hh or a touch under. Definitely big enough for me to ride once she's totally healed up and we have good footing again. Right now she does a little antsy pants dance in the crossties and is kind of a pill, but she's not an ass about it -- just doesn't seem to know better since she hasn't had a lot done with her lately.
After I was done with her and led her out, she got a bit rude about trying to get to the field so I spent another 10 minutes working on lead line manners. She stopped being pushy and gave me her full attention, so she got to go back out with her girls again.
Afterwards I brought the horse, Rogue, out and did a good 15-20 minutes of JUST lead line manners. Same deal. My strategy (stolen in part from Warwick Schiller videos, haha) was to teach her to walk politely on a loose(ish) line by walking, stopping, and if she didn't stop when I stopped, at or behind my shoulder, she'd have to do something demanding -- like back RIGHT up ten feet, or turn sharply and spin a few times. When she caught on that, if she paid attention and stopped when I stopped without trying to get ahead of me or crowding my space, she could just relax, she stopped being such a jerk. It took almost NO contact on the lead line, either -- just needed her focus and she was great!
By the time I was done with her outside, all her buddies were in, so we decided to try cross-tying her. We put her in the back crossties, where there's a wall behind her and where the horses generally tie better because they feel more secure with something behind them. She was TOTALLY chill. I think it was mostly because her buddies were in, but I do think the PAY ATTENTION TO ME lead line work helped. Got her in a more cooperative zone instead of just thinking about what SHE wanted. I managed to groom her and even do her feet -- all with a little paint mare reaching over her stall door and pestering her -- without her being bad at ALL. She moved over when I asked without me having to get aggressive, and really just stood there SO chill! I put the lead line on her and unsnapped the crossties and just stood beside her with her totally calm and chilled out and not trying to go anywhere. I could tell the lead line work had gotten through to her, as the one time I had to give a slight tug on it, she backed up politely right way. Hilarious.
My coach said she'd never seen her so cool with being crosstied, and that we should try moving her up to the ones near the door where they don't usually stand as well. This was a good test as it was also right beside her stall where her dinner was waiting for her! And even in those ties? A peach. It was amazing. When I led her up to them, I still maneuvered her a little on the lead, forward, back, etc, to make sure she knew she still needed to focus on me. Then I clipped her in, and the only thing she tried was to repeatedly turn her head towards the stall, like "Hey lady, my food's in there!" I still had the lead line on and would gently tug her head back to keep her focus on me, each time. Once she stopped and was standing nicely, I went into her stall and grabbed a couple of handfuls of hay, and then came out and gave her some good scratches while I hand-fed them to her in the crossties. I want to make sure she starts to associate cross-tie time with relaxation, focus on me, and a positive interaction.
After I unclipped her, I moved her around a bit again so she didn't get to just barge right into her stall -- and she didn't even try it! I made sure she backed up out of the way, then I went in first, and then asked her to follow me in. I made her stand nicely while I unclipped the lead, and THEN she went for her hay. After she had a bit of it, and I was back out of the stall, her head was out BEGGING for attention! What a suck. She got lots of petting and scratching, and was trying to eat my phone while I took a few pictures of her. For a sometimes-big-bully, she's a real sweetheart. <3
This was just what my day needed!!