Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I rode her!

First, I have to tell you this - this is so cute. Drama, the POA, had her first jumping lesson tonight, so we had a small x set up with two ground poles spaced in front of it. I was going to see if Lucy would walk over ground poles, so I lowered the x to the ground and learned that not only will Lucy walk over ground poles, she will walk over them following me like a dog! All I had to do at the end was kiss to her and circle and she'd follow me back over. It was adorable.

So, I finally decided to get on her and I used the time-honored Cookie Distraction Method to do it. My friend fed her cookies, I got on. Worked GREAT. She did not move a muscle, even after I was up. Stood quietly, was only interested in my friend and the cookies. Hooray.

Well, bless Lucy, she pretty much told me everything I need to work on in the space of one short ten minute ride. I love it when horses are transparent like that. There is not a whole lot of steering and she massively overreacts to leg (like, spooks away from it like you goosed her). That's a pretty comfortable zone for me - I've ridden a lot of horses like that and don't have a problem staying quiet and leaving their sides alone. She's really gate sour - one moment I was walking past the gate to the left and then, swoosh, we were back at the gate facing right. WTF? Kind of interesting to correct on a horse who won't bend her neck and doesn't like leg. I told her she was going to deal with some leg, but we were going forward and going to the left. She actually dealt with the correction pretty well. I felt like the first time I put leg on her it surprised her and she was a lot better after that, though of course I kept it as subtle as possible.

"Ho" is not a problem. We have "ho." We have a nice quiet stand once stopped.

She wanted to follow the cookie-feeding friend, but she accepted being asked to part from her without any drama. She didn't act spooky or "looky" at anything in the arena.

I didn't want to do much the first time and just keep it short and positive, so I halted (far awa from the gate!) and dropped my stirrups in preparation for getting off. They must have tapped her in the sides because she jumped and tensed up. White eyes, scared again. Hmmm. I quietly recollected my stirrups and petted her. When she had settled again, I dropped them more carefully and slid off quickly. That scared her again, but I was definitely not leaving a foot in the stirrup on a horse that goosy about mounting/dismounting.

She's broke and never felt potentially explosive when I was on her but either (a) she hasn't been ridden since the track except for Stephanie and hence is still adjusting to rider legs being in that position at all or (b) she's been spurred/scared. I did not feel at all like this mare was wanting to do anything bad to me. She was simply concerned about what I might do to her. She would relax pretty quickly every time I petted her and told her things were fine.

So, tonight's ride makes our game plan pretty clear. We're going to do some ground driving to improve the steering and also desensitize her to things touching her butt and flanks. Kind of thinking we may do it in a western saddle so that she adjusts to stirrups bonking her in the sides and comes to learn it's no big deal. I think that she is a fast learner and will come around quickly, but I do think she has a little bit of that naturally panicky nature you sometimes get with Thoroughbreds, so we'll go slow with her.

P.S. Drama pony was AWESOME about jumping! She LOVES it and will not even jump unless it's a vertical...X's are too easy and she trots them. This pony will choose to free jump when loose in the arena and not being chased. She's got a real enjoyment of it and I am sure she will only go up from here!


Char said...

WHOOT! Way to go for Lucy!!!

I'm tellin' ya, you and that pony are gonna have TONS of fun! If only I were 100lbs again...


I love ponys.

Deer Run Stables said...

Aww... Lucy sounds like a real sweetheart. And it also sounds like you've just about got the mounting thing licked.

I bet in no time at all, she'll be happy to accept a cookie directly from you right before you get on, and another after you're up (which is also a great neck-bendy exercise for an "I don't know how to steer" horse!), and she'll begin to think that this mounting deal isn't such a bad gig, after all.

Go, you!

SOSHorses said...

WoooHoooo! Great job Cathy!

I would say that she has been spured/kicked. She is anticipating the pain so she is reacting. I would say you are on the right track and if you keep doing what your doing she will come out of that part of her fear very quickly.

She has one advantage over Annie, she isn't violently headshy.

paintarab said...

Your idea to use a western saddle to desensitize her to stirrups is a great one. I learned to ride on horses who had always been ridden and trained with english saddles. When ever I would loose or drop a stirrup while riding I would tense until I figured out the horses reaction. After moving out west I began riding horses who were used to be lounged in western saddles. I first time I ever lost a stirrup on a green horse was at a gallop. I tensed dramatically, then realized that the horse didn't care! Even though he was super green, he knew a bouncing stirrup didn't matter. I a HUGE advocate of lounging horses with stirrups down (either a western saddle or an english in a safe environment).

Heidi the Hick said...

I agree- western horses get used to the stirrups. Just start small, with gentle taps against her side, and reward her when she settles. It worked for my little mare, and it didn't totally desensitize her; she's still very responsive to leg.

Ellie said...

The POA sounds so cute, I would love to see pictures. Lucy sounds like she really wants to do the right thing, and having a good brain is half the battle.

Ellie and Werther Blog

autumnblaze said...

The pony sounds so cute - any pics? Snap some of her doing her own little course sometime. I love when they do that. :)

myhorsefaith said...

Hey Cathy-

Is she sensitive when you touch her sides from the ground? I had to desensitize Cassie from the ground...I did this using stuff, but also my body. I taught her the difference between just feeling things touching her, even touching her strongly (I worked up to rubbing her sort of strongly with the length of my arm), and something touching her with the intent to cause her to move somewhere.

I found out she was a little confused, and thus scared because she didn't know the difference. But once she figured it out, we were good to go on the ground, and in the saddle.

Also- make sure her tummy isn't hurting her? I doubt that is the issue, but doesn't hurt to cover the health aspect of it.


Ponyice said...

My horse is the same way,he even started pushing in to pressure.He is off at training now and she uses old tire pieces hooked to either side the back d ring on a wp training saddle in the round pen, has really helped my guy with settling down. He kicks out at them allot at first now he is so over it and we are side passing and getting great lateral movement off the leg as opposed to drunkenly staggering around the arena :)I am so proud of him, we had the best ride ever last Saturday, figure 8s and all at the most lovely of jogs with consistent speed and cadence. Good luck with your project!

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>Is she sensitive when you touch her sides from the ground?<<

No, not at all. She's a bit of a moose on the ground - the kind where you push on her in the cross ties and she doesn't get the idea of moving OVER until you're pretty strong with it. If I poked her in the heel area on the ground, she wouldn't blink.

TheHorseGirl said...

Supreme Awesomeness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


ezra_pandora said...

My mare was sensitive on her sides at first too. My western saddle had higher fenders that would rub her as we were riding if I didn't pay attention to my legs and she would also literally end up 1/4 way down the arena before I realized we were there. I changed saddles to one with fenders that went down closer to the stirrup so it wasn't rubbing her sensitive sides until she got used to it. Slowly but surely she got better and I'm back to my own saddle. I ended up talking to her while riding quite a bit too. I still do now if I feel her getting worked up. I reach and scratch a little with one rein while saying easy girl and she relaxes almost instantly. It's almost her cue. If Lucy is calming down with you petting her and talking to her, maybe talking to her more while you are riding would work too.

Sydney said...

Wow thats great.

I have something to add about the touchy sides. My friends mare pulled her back out of alignment bucking and sliding in the paddock and every time after that when someone was riding her she would be super sensitive about leg and eventually it escalated into mounting problems. We had no idea what caused it and were perplexed. This mare is real quiet and a gem to be around. One visit from the chiropractor fixed it and 5 rides later she was good as gold again. Turns out her back out made a rib pop out like just a couple millimeters and it was painful on both sides to be pushed on with leg.
I don't know if that is Lucy's problem but if the desensitizing still leaves her shy it might be worth the visit from the chiro.

verylargecolt said...

I agree - she'll be on the list when we have the chiro out. I think I'm going to call him for the VLC soon, I'm just thinking something is going on in the hip, too, with him. I've seen a time or two when he just kind of "loses it" with the left hip. He plays VERY hard with his gelding buddy and I wouldn't be surprised if he put himself out of whack and that's contributing to the mild, but persistent, left hind lameness.

mugwump said...

I was going to just shut up, but I can't. Being one who uses spurs and all. Horses that have been abused with a spur lean into them, not away. If they have been over spurred by both (instead of kicking) for forward they will come up, which translates into sulling up, rearing or bucking, i.e. loss of forward.
If she's that light sided it just means she's light (which should mean soon to be lovely) and hasn't been ridden with enough, if any leg.

OutRiding01 said...

... I want the pony.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Mugs - No, I appreciate that. But I have seen overreactions when a horse is used to being "booted" by a rider - not necessarily with spurs - but you know, the ya-hoo, boot 'em in the ribs to go, pull hard to stop school of riding.

We'll see how it goes, I may ride her tonight if someone is around. I have been trying to avoid riding alone just in case since I don't really know her yet.

dawdler said...

VLC - Just a thought about your last entry and the COB's (understandable) blanketing issue. Have you tried one of those blankets that is closed in the front and goes over the head? If you take a minute to prepare the blanket before you put it on, it's only over their head for a second and then you just give a quick tug from the butt to settle it in place. I was just thinking that maybe she'd be happier with less fussing around her front and you'd be safer farther from her mouth (or is she a COB with her back as well? Lol). You can also get the front of a normal blanket sewn shut (maybe with a nice, fuzzy chest lining?) and it works just as well.

fyyahchild said...
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