Sunday, October 19, 2008

Filly Ridin'

"Man, I wish we could have a month or two like this, " I said to Arron, as we wrapped up the day's accomplishments. Then, I realized, we HAVE had a month like this, I haven't been able to be out in it. Snark.

We got a lot done today. Started kinda slow . . . I can tell I am going to become very jealous of my Sundays . . . the only day off Arron and I share. "No alarm clock" day for either one of us, and we took full advantage of it, til the dogs going nuts told us someone was at the door. The neighbor with hay. I complained yesterday, about the oat stuff we've been getting. The horses dig through, get the oats, and then starve to death eating the straw. As a result, I am seeing ribs and big bellies. It is time to worm, too, but that speaks more to poor quality roughage and them trying to consume more than they should to get what they need. So, he brought me alfalfa. Arm and leg prices, convenience will only buy so much, as soon as the other guy is out of the field, I'll get hay from him, but it's nice to have more than one source.

Once that was dealt with, we rolled into the day. I caught and saddled the trainers, and Arron went to work on hanging gates and fixing fence. I brought Nic in, too. I have someone coming to look at him, and I probably should manage to be on him, before they get here. Anybody wanna earn $20??

I am bored with the round pen today. My guts, my instincts, everything but that nagging voice in my head, stomache, wherever it lives, that predicts disaster at every turn, everything but that told me Slippin was more than ready to move on. Get her out, keep her interest fresh, is what the good voices said . . . what if she . . . what if she . . . shut up.

Five minutes of groundwork, she's so solid she looks better than most of the horses I ride willingly, anywhere and everywhere. Arron is working on the front pens, I say, hey I am going to ride her in here today . . . Still a pen, but a different pen, one with edges, corners and more room . . . and stuff to play with. During the five minute warm up, I showed her the squeeze I just built out of the cut logs, asked her to step up and down off the concrete foundation . . . (you better believe I am thinking "Trail Challenge" with her, but we have far to go . . .). I step up on her, astonishing her a little I think. Her ears set back a little and she's a bit grumpy as we step off. I don't think she knew I was going to make a habit of being up there, on her back, just any old where in the world . . . I don't think she had realized that, at all. Did fine.

She turns off a light touch on the reins, moves off my leg with a little heavier one. We ride the perimeter of the yard pen, sliding a little in the mud on the bottom . . . slippin' . . . She doesn't lose her cool, not in the least and we trot, going back up. That's fine, too. She's got some spunk to her, picks up her pace with just a little Doc Bar 'tude, not enough to scare me, just enough to make me like her even more than I already do which is plenty. We ride the squeeze, non issue, walk into the little box I made on the other side, stop, step over and ride through again. Toys are good. We go up the foundation, up on the smaller side, and step down on a not challenging part, too. Next time, we pick steeper:-)

Arron is grinning at us, he agrees she is riding like a proper little horse. I look longingly out into the bigger pasture behind the barn, I really want to take it out there. Arron asks for help, he's finished hanging gates and is ready to work on the tree demolished panels that have rendered the bottom pen useless now for months. Least I can do, eh. I reluctantly climb down and lend assistance.

Snapping the shovel handle while trying to pry up the buried panels . . . I suggest I might be more use, riding fillies. Gets me nowhere. Don't be a quitter, he says, and assigns me a different job . . . sigh.

Annette shows up with Sandy man, and we chat about the weekend at Turkey Creek. Part of me wishes I had been there with you all, part of me knows I did good to stay home. Learned some stuff, got to hang with my honey, who has been vastly underappreciated by me, lately. Sounds like a wonderful time was had, and good ground gained with Annette & Hank. Good horsemanship is easier done than described, and it does sound like there was some really good stuff going on with them. She's going to make a great horse out of him. I wish it would have been me that did the trick but I only got to lay some of the bricks, not build the whole foundation. All part of the journey, hers, mine, his . . .

We struggle and cuss the wire panels some more, but they get removed (geez, I hate those things) and the big panel is in place. It's short, Arron has to cut some of the panel to close off the section. I take this opportunity to flee to the barn, check on Dusty, who's learning what his saddle feels like, he's fine, and Nic . . .

Decide to ride Knosie, she's wearing her bridle for maybe the second time, started out chewing, gagging, and not at all happy at what happened when I asked her to open her mouth for me. I am going to ride her in her bit, and I spend some time teaching her what it does, rewarding the give, asking her to move out with a little energy . . . She expresses her doubts by dragging her heels but the bit is resting in her mouth and she doesn't care about it, anymore.

I grabbed up Arron and asked him to come watch me ride her. I think it was just to quiet that danged wretched voice, that just wants to chatter at me about bad stuff, all the time. It's not that he could do a thing to help me, from outside the round pen, if I push her into a wreck, but somehow, having someone else around to explain things to, as I go, distracts me from myself and frees me up to work. Goofy, I know, but that's me. I step up on the cute and quiet buckskin filly with barely a twinge. I rode her pretty hard the other night, and she just rose to it. Not much turn or handle, but no buck or spook either. I move her hip over, letting her come off the rein tension, and releasing as the left hind foot lifts to cross in back. Again. She doesn't care one bit that I am up there, is only trying to figure out this unwieldy metal thing that's got her by her tender mouth. I am respectful of that, spiral her out and ask her to walk around the pen. She wants to wander drunkenly, and I ask her to pick up her pace to get her straight and interested in what we are doing. I have to work pretty hard to make it difficult enough for her to keep walking that she finally steps into a trot. I am FINALLY getting what it means to not make my horse do something, just make it difficult for them not to. I have watched my Brannaman videos, my Ray Hunt tribute dvd's . . . over and over, and over and over. This language is in my head, but it's finally, at long last, starting to trickle down into my hands, my legs and my heart.

I ride her for probably half an hour more, most of it about forward motion, asking her to free up those long legs and move out. I have no fear of slapping the saddle with the popper, my leg, and when necessary, her shoulder or her rump. Knosie doesn't resent me, and she gets quicker with her responses as she begins to understand the things I am doing, up there on her back, have meaning, and I do the same things, each time, to help her get that. I ask for more trot and get her going pretty good. We wind up in the mud puddle a couple of times, I don't want to trot through that, there is enough slope to the pen to make it slippery on that bottom end, but after the first time, when she surprised herself and got stuck, we ride through like trail horse people.

Then, I work on hindquarter over, and bringing the front end through to help her lighten up on the bit, and get those feet attached to the reins. I lead her around in front, bumping lightly with my outside leg, as her inside front foot leaves the ground, following the feel on the inside rein. She gets better at this and I no longer have a ton of dead weight hanging on my arms as I ask her to come around. She's turning on a slack rein now, so I call it good. We work on some backing, she understands it in a halter, backs willingly off one rein, but the bit has her confused. We work through that, I ask for one front foot at a time, not releasing til I get the foot I want, but rewarding the try, each time, as soon as her weight shifts the way I want her to go. She sure has a different look and feel about her than she did when we got started . . . thinking the neighbors must have wondered what the heck, as a couple of our "I won't lead and you can't make me" tussles took us down by their fence and all over the back pasture. We are WAYYY past that, now :=)

Arron agrees she's come a long way. "Took you long enough, though" he says. I sniff, thinking ribs, but he is thinking procrastination, and he is more right than I am. Days like this, I love working with the colts and they are coming closer together now. I am starting to get excited thinking about Sasha and Two Socks' first ride, rather than thinking of it with the dark dread that usually clouds me. I have always liked the part when they ride well enough to really start teaching them stuff, but what I am learning now, tells me I start teaching them stuff from the beginning and things are going much better this way. This horsemanship journey is quite a deal, and as personal and as intense as any other I have ever been on . . .

It was groundwork for Dusty. This is a big, heavy boned Tobiano Paint colt, bay with a little white on him. He is a left brained sort, to borrow a Parelli term, and extremely internal. We have a friend we refer to as "not-excitable Jeff". His reaction to a deeply kick ass tattoo that he and Arron designed together, was a small nod, a glint in his eye and a slightly upturned corner of his mouth. "That rocks." he says . . . Well, this is Dusty, and if I am not careful, again, I will blow past his reactions because I won't wait to see them. I did the hip over, front end through and decided to work on the stirrup slap. He is so quiet, I want to just climb on and go, but I have already skipped one step with him (which is why he just got to wear his saddle most of this day, and figure out those cinches) and I am not going to skip the others. I get vigorous with the slapping and he does react with a widened eye and raised head. "Do I need to be worried about this?" He asks. No, Dusty, you don't, you're fine, just that this saddle is going to make noise from time to time, and pretty soon, there are going to be legs there, bumping you and asking you for things. "Hmmm." He says.

I stop and wait. I count to 30, waiting for his lick and chew (don't get many, at all, from this horse, yet). At 30, he finally blinks, sighs, lowers his head and I know it's coming so I keep waiting. A good fifteen seconds later, it happens. He licks, chews, regards me a little, what's next? Well, now we do the other side. No L&C from that side, and I wait for what seems forever, he gets bored. Okay, here we go, more hips around, ask him to move out at a good swinging walk, and now he licks and chews. Okay, fine, whatever, it's his lesson, not mine, anyway . . .

Line him up at the saddle rack to pull the rig, he stays put and stands solid. I think this colt has every potential in the world to be one of those great 100% good geldings that we all want to own. It's in his nature, just up to me to properly steward the education.

When I brought Slippin in to untack, I took her halter off before her bridle, doing it the cowboy way. She was a little offended with my clumsy fingers in her mouth but we got it figured out :-) If I win the lottery before Doats sells her, I am going to own her. At any rate, I am going to help them get a right kind of price for her, she's one neat little girl.

And that was the day, riding fillies.

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