I guess we do follow a few 'guidelines': be consistent, do things with purpose, always praise the 'try', enjoy what you are doing, always stop while you are succeeding, don't push too hard - listen to your horse tell you when to quit.
I got to play cameraman most of the day; it seems when Bill tried, he couldn't manage the little buttons on the camera very well with his gloves on, so he tried to take off the gloves at the same time he was filming. That did not bode well for picture quality.
We spent a good deal of our time with Skeeter messing with the saddle. This was the first time she had to stand for the pad and the saddle. Always before it was one or the other. She wasn't quite sure what to make of having both put on at the same time, but was willing to see what we were up to. It took her a few minutes to decide it was OK to move with that tight thing around her belly. Once she got moving, she seemed to forget about the whole thing, no matter what we did; shoving the saddle around, slinging the stirrups against her body from either side, hanging off the strings.
Bill decided the pen was boring and took her outside for some longer exercise, when he spotted the trees in the yard. Aha! Good for tying practice. He just walked right up to the tree and had her tied before she even knew what was up.
|She looks like a well trained cow pony! Pretty girl.|
She looked at the tree, tried turning her head a couple of times and then decided she could bite the rope around the tree - or maybe the bark under the rope - to get it to come loose. She inadvertently got her nose under the rope and tipped her head up, causing the rope to slide down her neck and pull her head to the off side, so she was standing next to the tree with her head twisted to the other side, putting her body between her head and the tree. The rope had gotten caught on the saddle horn in that position and the more she pulled on her head, the tighter she snugged herself to the tree. We watched her really closely for any signs of panic, but she stayed calm and finally let out a little whimper with her nose next to the stirrup. Bill tried to release the rope, but she had too much pressure on it, so he finally just released the off-billet and let the saddle slide off her to get the rope off the horn and release the pressure. That meant he could untie the rope and lead her away. He led her back to the tree with no problem; she didn't seem to hold any grudges against the tree or the lead rope. We headed back into the pen. I held her near the fence while Bill threw the saddle up near her; she didn't care so we just put the pad and saddle back on with no problem. You would have thought nothing had ever happened. She is a steady-eddy for sure!
We figured she had learned a great deal that day and would probably be worn out thinking about it all. Now she knew sometimes you have to stand in one spot. Things can get you tied up but your person will help if you ask. Having a saddle slide off your side and hit the ground under you was no problem (but we had done that before, just not out of necessity). Trees have lots of good stuff of interest. More than one thing can be put on you at a time - and you can still move. Weight on the stirrups was no big deal.
Bill tried a little exercise in neck reining but it was obvious she was tired so we quit on a good note. She did enjoy following Bill around after he 'saved' her from the tree!
|Look ma, no hands.|
Next, we spent time with Copper. He just needs lots of play time with the lead rope; remember, he was adopted about three months after Skeeter, so he has a ways to go to get to the same point, but he is doing very well. He is also pretty unflappable, but I think he is a much more sensitive horse. He can tend to shut down when things overwhelm him, and that can be really hard to spot. It's much easier to see a horse getting too excited or worked up.
The first thing we noticed with Copper is his idea of 'work time'. He's a union animal; after ten minutes, he's done. He led well for Bill for about that long, but when Bill stopped to tighten the halter, Copper thought the halter was going to come off and they were finished. He was sure surprised when that didn't happen and was not about to move again. He was pretty balky after that, so I picked up a training flag and tapped it on the ground behind him - from a long distance away. At first he did scoot up behind Bill, then turned and spotted me. I dropped the flag and started just walking behind him. If I got a tiny bit too close, he would dart in front of Bill, whirl and stare at me, then Bill. He had decided I was the culprit, not the flag. It dawned on me that he was under too much pressure, so I walked to the other side of the pen. Things went better after that. Check GunDiva's blog for the videos. (http://gundiva-talesfromthetrail.blogspot.com/2014/09/play-day.html)
Copper ground ties really, really well. Once you drop the rope, he is like a statue, so Bill used that to practice picking up his feet, rubbing him all over and just being a nuisance. He was so good, Bill turned him loose.
I needed to make nice with Copper so he wouldn't be afraid of me, so while Bill played keep away with Skeeter and the flag, I brushed out Copper's mane and put a few braids in it. I had him in the smaller pen to do this, without a lead rope or halter. He stood nicely by me for the first braid but kept sticking his nose in the way while I was doing the second one. Without thinking, I gave his nose a little flick with my fingers and you would have thought I damaged his ego! He flipped his nose in the air and laid it down on the fence rail and gave me the most mournful look. I had really hurt his feelings! That's when we really realized just how sensitive he is. He is going to take some careful handling. I loved on him a bit after the last braid and he followed me like Skeeter followed Bill. We called it a day. They had both worked hard.
|Copper is so handsome with his braids.|