Steps in the Right Direction

I house sat again this past weekend. I honestly love this part of my “job”. I’ve been house sitting for five or six years now, and it’s always something I’m happy to do. Most of my “clients” these days are up north, so it means closer to work and closer to the critter. It also means a little mini-vacation of sorts. I love my current living situation, but sometimes, it’s really nice to be “alone” for a few days! I actually head back up north on Thursday for another client. Of course, now that I’m sick, I just want to stay home and hide in my own bed. Obviously, I’m never satisfied šŸ˜‰

Anyway, it’s meant I’ve been able to see Image the past few days in a row.

After last weekend’s success with me being able to get my full weight on his back, there were a couple of things I wanted to experiment with. First of all, my fantastic and far more knowledgable aunt made a suggestion at Easter dinner that stuck with me. With the addition of our makeshift around pen, it made executing said suggestion much easier.

When I realized last weekend that he was not comfortable with things “flopping” on his off side when I was over his back, we began working on that. Thursday, I worked him in the round pen. He transitioned beautifully from medium gait to canter in both directions with little encouragement, and was tuned into my body language. Once I was sure he had his attention fully on me, I haltered him, and worked on his flexing response. Oddly enough, his worse side is his left side. I tend to find horses are stickier on their rights, as the norm is to do everything from the horse’s left. Once I was getting a nice, fluid flex on both sides, I dragged the mounting block into the round pen. I stood on it, flexed him toward me, and gently used the end of the line to tap him on his off side. I immediately got a tense horse who moved away from me. So, I sent him off and moved him around me and the block with a lot of energy. After a few revolutions, I asked him to whoa and had him come back in to me. Moving = work. Standing still and relaxing = reward. I repeated the exercise again. It only took a few times of me sending him away from me when he chose to move off on his own for him to “get it”. Smart pony is smart!

I called it a day there, and made an attempt to clean him up. Black pony is a dirty pony. Hair is coming off of him in handfuls now, which is wonderful. I can’t wait until he’s slick and shiny!

Friday was a lot of the same. He remembered his lesson well, and I was able to get relaxation out of him much more quickly. I also worked with him with a saddle on. After I was able to stand on the mounting block and tap him with a decent amount of energy on his off side, I flexed him in, boosted myself up into the stirrup, laid over his back, and repeated the exercise. The new sensation had him flustered, so he got sent off around me each time until he stood calmly.

“I was good. Now feed me, kthxbai.”

Saturday was mostly a goof off day. I threw his halter on, pulled his bridle on over the top, and we went for a walk. The trails have melted nicely…and there is a LOT of water in the two water crossings we have. I wondered what his reaction to water would be. I probably shouldn’t have worried. He marched right up to the edge, blew some bubbles, and pawed for about five minutes straight. I allowed him to go in, after thinking he was just going to stand there and splash. He had me duped, though:

That cold water touched his belly and he sprang right back up. Neener!

We then spent some time hanging out in the clearing, where he grazed a bit on some grass and thoroughly inspected my lap and phone when I sat on a stump.

We wandered back home where I tried, unsuccessfully, to clean him up a little. I don’t think he’s going to be truly clean again until it warms up enough for me to scrub the hell out of him with some shampoo. Poor horse ain’t gonna know what hit him!

Sunday rolled around and I did a bit of everything with him in the morning. The ring is finally useable again (woo!), so I lunged him a bit, working on voice commands for gait changes. He’s still having issues with coming back down to a walk, but will gait off (be it a pace or a rack) quietly, pick up a canter, and drop back down to a gait. Walking is slowly coming to him…he just has a lot more get up and go than he knows what to do with!

I had saddled him up, and wanted to ground drive just a bit to see where his head was at. Well, he was pretty muh perfect. We zigged and zagged all over the ring, stopped, backed up, went in circles, racked off, and dropped back down without a fuss. No head tossing, no nervous dancing, nothing…just a calm critter on the end of the lines. Good boy!!

With him being so good, I wanted to work on the previous lesson. I positioned him next to the big mounting block, flexed him in towards me, stepped into the stirrup, and leaned over his back. I patted his off side heavily, talking and praising him the entire time. He seemed bored. I like bored, right now. Bored is good.

I did this a few more times, and decided to kick it up a notch. I feigned swinging my leg over, like I was going to get on. He lifted his head momentarily, but that was the extent of his reaction. So, with this, I finished swinging my leg over, and gently lowered myself into the saddle.

He tensed briefly, but offered no real reaction. I was up there for maybe 30 seconds, tops, before getting back off. I dismounted as fluidly and quietly as I had mounted, and released him. He stood there, licking and chewing, with the gears turning in his head. I rubbed his forehead and praised him profusely for being such a good boy.

As for me? I had just sat on my horse and nothing bad happened. I cried like a fool into his neck.

The rest of the day was full of the other girls at the barn riding. I played photographer (with my 50mm, for the most part…sigh) while Image snoozed next to me in the ring. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that I turned him back out, and he was more than happy to spend the day chilling out with me. I then helped L shovel out a paddock, returned back to the house, and realized that I felt like death warmed over.

Oops.

So, it’s Monday night now and I’m probably going to be down and out for a day or two. Nasty fever, really gross cough, body aches, a sore throat and a headache usually mean bad things. Sigh.

However, I sat on my horse this weekend. We have a very long way to go, but these are certainly steps in the right direction!!

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