Saturday, January 7, 2012


It only looks like a bad hair day

Sunny and I put in just under an hour of work this afternoon.  I'm not entirely sure how successful my two-point practice was.  I wasn't brave enough to try it cantering, so I stuck to walk and trot, and he cooperated by motoring around in nice big circles on a loose rein.  I alternated my homework and homework for him - it was warm work despite the chill in the air.  He was dampish and I was too, by the time we finished.  He was more than happy to snooze by the trailer while I tacked up the next victim.

It was definitely starting to cool off by the time I got started with Thunder, so I decided to forgo the longeing part of the program and spend the extra time working on the cue for forward, alternating with asking him to give his face.  As I'd thought, the initial "Huh?" period was much shorter than last time.  Amazing how quickly they catch on given time to process.

When he was walking nicely off from a cluck and light stirrup bump, I checked the cinch and swung on.  He stood nicely - good boy! Click! Rather than monkey with the bit and bridle, I'd snapped the reins to the sidepull rings on his rope halter, and I left his leadrope on, as well, figuring if he decided to get rambunctious I'd probably have better luck getting him to stop with the lead on the halter than using a bridle, anyway at this stage of things.

I tugged gently on the right rein, and after a second or so of resistance, Thunder swung his nose around to touch my toe.  Click!  Good boy!  Repeat to the left.  Click! And again...  Okay, so that part of the lesson seemed to have percolated properly through his head... now to see if he'd walk off. Cluck, gentle nudge with the side of the stirrup and... Houston, we have ignition!

He stepped forward a bit hesitantly, but when I sat quiet, he continued on until I lifted the reins enough to for him to feel pressure, sat deep and said the W-word.  And the feet stopped moving.  GOOD BOY!!!  Click!

One success didn't mean we'd conquered forward movement completely, though. When I asked again, he seemed a bit confused.  But stepping backward didn't work, and turning his head didn't work, so after a little time to process while I continued to cluck and squeeze - being careful to keep my heels out of his sides, because Eeep!  I'd forgotten that I'd been riding Sunny with nubby, round-tipped spurs and I was still wearing them - he stepped forward again.  Could I direct our walk in a circle?  Why yes, I could.  Not a big circle and slightly wobbly, but a circle... and a figure-eight.  Another whoa, and then another circle.... 

At one point when we stopped again, I climbed down and led him back over to the trailer so I could grab the camera.  Silly maybe, but I wanted to document the occasion - not the first time I've sat on him, since I've been sitting on him bareback since he was three, but the first time we navigated anywhere under saddle and sans leader.

A couple more circles in each direction at the walk, and I called it a ride.  Only about 20 minutes, but progress.  The sun was sinking taking the warmth with it, and my fingers were starting to get numb, but it was definitely a good day!

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