Note: My natural ride bareback pad is still up for auction and open to best offers.
Today as I was out on a leisurely bareback rider on Indigo around the harvested corn field I got to thinking how much me and my little spotty horse have done this year.
It may not seem like a lot but she has gone 365 and a few days without being injured. *knock on a lot of wood*
What does this have to do with accomplishing things? A lot considering she hasn't had to be off because of some large cut, scrape, bump or bruise.
If you have been following this blog for any period of time you will know this is almost unheard of. Indigo, without any injuries? *again knock on more wood*
From spring this year and still ongoing she has been worked 5-7 days a week. Some days we just go around bareback, others we drive a few miles at a trot, working hard and walking a lot.
We rode bitless.
We drove bitless.
So did lil'red cowgirl.
She sure had a lot of fun following us around to horse shows this summer for the opportunity to take my spotty pill into a few classes, who I might add behaved excellently for lil'red and earned themselves some ribbons and winnings.
Photo's by Robin
Lately we have been working on not having meltdowns over little things (like people walking way off in the distance) and shes been doing amazing. She gets a little unsure of things still but instead of teleporting fifteen feet to the side and then assessing if it's a threat or not shes been stopping and staring at whats got her attention. I am much more happy to deal with this and encourage her to walk on when she stops. I want her to know the option to stop and look is there but the option to run away isn't going to get her any closer to home.
I credit a lot of this to my doing. Both causing some of her big spooks and now calming her before she has that spook.
See when I first got Indigo she was ridden by her previous owners husband. He is not a horseman but he wanted to ride with his wife, probably the reason why she was described as "not husband safe". In short if Indigo decided if it was time to trot off they trotted off. If Indigo decided it was time to stop and snack on things it was time to stop and snack on things. So long story short when I got her not only was her reign of terror over but there would be a lot more hard work involved than working when she wanted to (see trotting off).
Naturally being the opinionated mare she is Indigo rebelled. She dove at grass and weeds, yanking the reins out of my hands no matter how hard I made her work because of it. Every last tiny blade of grass was worth the work in her eyes. She trotted off when she felt it was time to trot, leaving me up on her back as a passenger instead of her partner. She took matters of how fast we went into her own hooves but never took off at any fast speed or was ever dangerous for me to handle. She threw a few big spooking fits in there too and got me all flustered.
I hollered, kicked, screamed a few times. "you should not be spooking you have seen -insert one of two: Objects that move and objects that do not- a thousand times!"
I would get mad at her and get after her for spooking. She would smarten up for a short wile but always find something else to be unsure and spooky about. I thought she was trying to get out of work. She thought I was a monster I am sure but put up with me through both of our confusions.
Sometimes this mare is a harder nut to crack than the young horses I have trained. She has some bad habits that came with her and had been doing those irritating habits for many years. A young untrained horse has the ability to be molded by you without the presence of those bad habits in the way.
I've ridden more horses this spring/summer/fall than I have all other summers. It's given me some valuable ideas and information especially towards Indigo.
Indigo is 18. Most of the horses I have broke or finished this year have been 5 or under in the exception to an unbroken 11 year old ex broodmare, a 10 year old gelding and a 21 year old mare that had not been ridden in 12 years. I treated them all the same: like they were a 2 year old being introduced for the first time to things.
So being the perfectionist I am I got to thinking, how come I could get these inexperienced horses to be calm and collected about scary situations, but Indigo would have a fit and want to get the hell out of dodge?
I thought about how I handled it.
An inexperienced horse would spook or become unsure I would scratch it's neck, give it plenty of rein and reassure it that whatever was scary was not going to hurt it and they would usually snort a few times and carry on.
Indigo, I mean she is 18. She should have a been there done that attitude being all the places shes been. I got mad a lot of the time because she would spook at things that shouldn't have been a big deal. Normally I would use some sort of negative reinforcement such as giving her more work for spooking. This only made her more anxious the next time she was to spook.
Finally I put two and two together and started riding her like she was two. Slowly but surely accompanied by some no-nonsense work (as in ignoring shying when we worked or reassuring her it's ok but not letting her stop) shes come to the point where rather than trying to gather up and spook at things she will a) stop, usually more than once and take a good hard look at what might be bothering her or b) make a wide berth around it. This isn't the end of the line but it's better than alternative c) get the hell out of dodge.
With breaking a horse I have said and still say miles and miles of WALKING is what breaks a horse. Not trotting or cantering or galloping. Walking. It sure came true. When we were headed back in the general direction of home and Indigo got a little upset and wanted to jig or trot home I insisted we walked. No thought to it might take us two times as long to get home, we walked, and walked, and walked and if she anticipated a place where we were going to change gait before I asked we walked that whole spot too. Soon she just thought about walking. Walking the whole few miles was always an option and if she behaved and walked until I said so and she did indeed get to pick up the pace.
The result? Well she doesn't anticipate changing gait anywhere other than the odd day she has a little burst of energy but instead of a battle about walking she quietly goes back to a walk and we resume what we were doing.
So as far as this year we certainly have accomplished a lot as a horse and rider team even further than showing and spooking. Not only have we accomplished my new years resolutions Indigo has become incredibly tuned into my cues and even more supple to the bridle both direct contact and her new found love of neck reining. Collection is a breeze now, she can feel my cues and I can feel her whole body round up and that lovely swinging motion of her stepping under herself when we ride.
I can only hope we can follow up with this through the winter and all through next year.
So how about the rest of you. What have you accomplished this year with a horse?