Since June is only a couple of weeks back into “work” I’m trying to have as much low pressure fun with her as possible, while ultimately getting her fit enough to be back in lessons and regular work. I’m trying to mix it up a bit, a day of lunging in side reins followed by a hack around the the property.
I’ve arranged to have her turned out at least 5 days a week for a couple of hours and it seems to be making a difference in her whole attitude. Now, every time she comes out of her paddock it isn’t necessarily to go to work. When we do go to work she seems more relaxed and just…happier. I’m sure this will change if we get lots of snow, but for now, we’re both really enjoying the fact that she gets to wander grass pastures and enjoy some June time.
I’m working on increasing my confidence on her, and riding better should things go awry. After lightly lunging her the other day, I decided to ride her out on the fields surrounding the property. I have hand walked her out there lots, but as we know, ghosts are most likely to appear when we’re on their backs.
We have an irrigation canal, which in the summer is an impromptu drinking spot for lots of critters. Usually Siri is flushing birds and digging for voles. June clearly remembers two ducks that flew out in front of us this summer and nearly hit her in the noggin. Now she gives that canal the major hairy eyeball. But, knowing it’s empty and there is nothing to fear, I made her walk as close to it as possible. She gave one very impressive spook just so I knew she was serious that it is SCARY, but we were able to walk along it quite reasonably after that.
I put my big girl pants on and even trotted one stretch. I’ve never trotted her out there alone, and guess what? It was totally fine. And even kind of fun!
Feeling brave and like we’re on the right path, I accepted an invitation to go to our local cross country course and play around while people were schooling some jumps. I figured this was a great next step. See how June would be in a situation that could mimic a show, or a clinic. I arrived later than everyone else and when I got to the schooling field, the other riders were leaving to return one student to their trailer. I lunged June around some jumps and she was calm and listening well to me. I saw that some riders would be coming back to us shortly, but June did not seem to care that we were out there all by ourselves. So, I decided to once again, put on my big girl pants and hop on her by myself, alone in the field. As I looked for a log to use as a mounting block, a horse at the trailer nearby began screaming for her friends. This got horses at the boarding facility wound up. And now the two horses returning to us were in full view. Was it too much for June? Would she buck me off the minute I got on her and start galloping and screaming?
She let me get on, we walked around, joined the other horses, watched as they jumped some jumps and had a very grown up experience about the entire thing. In fact, June was just about perfect for the entire experience. I was really, really proud of her.
Two highlights that really sealed the deal for me:
- June is a bit ditchy. Once, when she got away from me in the jump field while I was lunging her, she gallop across the alfalfa field back to home. All the sudden she just slammed on the brakes and wouldn’t go any further. When I caught up to her I realized she didn’t want to cross the ditch the wheel line made. We worked on it a bit out in the field, but again, this was someone’s crop field, and they probably didn’t want my horse in it to begin with, so I kind of just filed it away for later. So, when we got to a rutted road in the field, I shouldn’t have been surprised that June would slam on the brakes. Using what I learned from a Hawley Bennett clinic years ago, I just walked June alongside the rut, just asking her to see it from both directions. Then we walked to where the rut ended, and was just a normal road and I asked her to cross. And she did. And I kept telling her how brave she was. We walked a little further and she continued to cross. Finally we got to where the ruts were quite large and ditch like, and she walked across them with ease. Smartest and bravest young pony ever.
- The second moment wasn’t as exciting, but still was a great moment. I decided to leave the group a little early, as I wanted to walk June away from them and through a new part of the facility by herself. June didn’t object at all. We passed two young horses playing, some chickens, lots of farm equipment and people riding. She got a little concerned at one point, but I was able to keep her going and it was a lovely, drama free ride.
These outings are helping me bond with her as well as build my confidence. She is such a fun horse and capable of so much. I don’t want to get lost in thinking that “training” only pertains to jumping and dressage. There’s so much more to training a youngster and for me, these two outings were some of the best training rides we’ve had so far!