Getting bored with horse posts? Hope not, because here’s another one. There is other stuff happening, just can’t/won’t talk about it as it involves work thoughts. Writer brain is locked in revisions and not much happening there. So horse or skiing, and horse it is tonight.
Mocha’s now recognizing the sound of the new car. Today she was in her old post by the door, watching for me to come in. It’s always a bit of a thrill to walk in the door and spot the white of her blaze in the front of the stall, showing that she’s looking for me. While the Sparkle mare and the Windy pony both liked me well enough, and Sparkle would watch the back door from the pasture, they’d just as happily greet my mom as they would me. Not so Mocha. While G. and his wife I. have a spot in her heart, I really don’t have other competition.
The nice thing about having a broke horse is that if you’re riding and someone asks for help, you can just step down, tell your horse “whoa,” and go off to lend a hand while the horse stays in place. I remember six years ago wondering if Mocha and I would ever be at that spot. Well, now we are and we have been in that place for a good two or three years. That skill is one of those little quiet achievements that are nonetheless important to me, along with being able to walk up to her in any circumstance and pick up a hoof without restraint.
The circumstance for parking her came about from a request. One of the working students needed to know the correct way to set up a stud chain as a training tool (pushy greenie in ground work, chain’s there to back him off of the lead rope and is wrapped around the halter noseband). Greenie was being alternately pushy and jumpy; had to snap him with my thumb (thumb cocked behind index finger, pop in nose when pushy horse starts lipping the hand) a couple of times when he started to lip my hand. He’d been tied to a patience post while G. taught a college riding class, tied up safely and then expected to learn to stand while other horses worked around him. It works. Takes time, but eventually even the pushiest learn to drowse off and/or watch what’s going on quietly.
I took my time to set up the chain as he was still wanting to pull back against the rope a little bit; simply stopped when he got fiesty and let him figure out that even though I was working around his head he wasn’t getting turned loose. From the way he acted I suspect he’s been able to break away from being tied when the rope either got loosened or unsnapped. So–let him hit the end of the rope, figure out nothing was going to get him loose if he was going to be a stinker like that, and let him learn.
Which he did. It wasn’t panic or fear, never did have that panic wild eye. More the calculating gaze of the pony brain who’s figured out a trick. Two times back against the rope, I’d just stop what I was doing, he’d straighten right up and come forward. Again, not the behavior of a panic. Slow, calculated, thoughtful. Watching what I was doing. Thinking about what I was doing.
So I set up the chain, then got back on Mocha and we worked while the student put him through basic groundwork paces. Noticed he was a bit pushy at first, then started developing some manners. Working Mocha around him was good. He got a wee bit anxious but settled as he realized she wasn’t affecting him.
Still working Mocha in the snaffle. I’ve been working quite a bit on getting her to soften and yield to the bit. As the pictures from the show demonstrated, she’s still not consistent with that and she really should be. She’s also in dripping heat at the moment, so I’m happy with whatever I can get out of her. It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes of solid warmup work before she softens up, and when she does…oh man, that big trot is amazing. Definitely not a Western pleasure jog. We didn’t have the full submission and softening for very long, but when we did….that feeling through her back and the way she just picked up and started to zoom at the trot–well, I just kept thinking “soft back, butter back, soft back, butter back” and making my legs soft and long and supporting her with my calves. Yum. A very nice working trot.
And she is getting oh-so-rateable in canter, and it’s not just me taking up the reins. I can now relax my seat, lean forward, move my hands forward and she springs ahead into an extended canter/hand gallop. Then I can sit up, take a firmer contact, slow my seat while still keeping it supportive and active so that she knows we’re still cantering, it’s just slower.
For us this is huge. She’s not wanted to cooperate with being rated in the canter, slowing and extending have been big challenges. It’s not something I’ve been able to pull together in the English saddle but it’s coming along much more easily in the Western tack, complete with seat cues. Then again, if the English saddle was poking her, it’s understandable she wouldn’t want to be rated. Her back is changing again, with more muscling toward the back of the scapula. I have a feeling that’s tied into the changes in her movement.
Her stops have also improved. I can breathe “whoa” in the hand gallop and she goes to ground. Period. Nose and butt down, and we’re stopped.
We also achieved a milestone this afternoon. Thanks to the wet, there were many good mud puddles in the tree farm, including one nice wide long puddle that Mocha and I cruised several times at a walk. Then I asked her to trot through it. Just what I could see of her original expression from her ears and quick eye glimpse, and feel from her back was hilarious–Princess Pony’s “OMG, DISGUSTING WET WET WET OMG THIS IS FUN!!”
Keep it up and I’ll have her splashing through puddles and sending water flying like a pro. Cracks me up, though, when she goes all Princess Pony on me like that.
Gotta love life with a horsey character. Keeps it real.