Monday, March 26, 2012

Looking Up, Cantering and Carrying Cones

Dawn and I had a delightful work session yesterday.  It was much cooler and we both enjoyed the change in the weather.  She had had a good roll in the pasture, and was coated with dried mud, so it took a while to get her clean enough to ride - by the end I had a shovelful of hair (she's shedding like crazy) and dirt that was the size of a small dog.  I think we may have hit bottom and be on the way back up with her weight.  She's eating some of her hay in the afternoons in her stall, instead of just standing there, and it doesn't look like she's lost more weight.  I'm still giving her some probiotics, and was fortunately able to schedule our excellent equine dentist, Mike Fragale, to come see her in two weeks.  So if there are any dental issues he'll be able to look at them and probably fix them.  Dawn's had her mouth/dental challenges over the years, including an abscessed molar a number of years ago and several broken teeth, as well as a serious injury to her tongue.  Last year, Dawn had part of a tooth that had fractured removed, leaving behind the part that was still viable.  I don't think she has a dental problem, but it will be good to rule that out.  I think Pie will also be at the new barn by then, so the dentist can look at him too.  Last year, he had shed all his caps but had a number of teeth that were still coming in.  His mouth will be more mature now - he'll be six in a few months.

I've been practicing what my trainer and I were working on last week - keeping my focus point very high - treetop level - which helps my head stay upright and corrects my tendency to hunch my shoulders, drop my head and stare at my horse's ears.  (As Mark Rashid is prone to say, there's no need to look at your horse's head to be sure it's still there since if it falls off you'll know it pretty quickly without looking.) In the indoor arena, I used the line where the walls meet the roof as my focus point. I even practice when I'm just walking around.  Dawn found this odd, as it shifts my weight back and changes her balance - in a good way, since I'm not over-weighting her front end.  She spent some time figuring this out at the walk and trot, and then we did a fair amount of canter work.  She's not completely fit yet and hasn't done much canter work under saddle in a while, so we keep our work to circuits of the arena and large circles.  Her canter is still somewhat strung out, but for now I just want her moving out.  Softening work and hind end engagement will come along later.  We cantered and cantered, and it was great fun.

During a break, I experimented with carrying cones from the saddle.  The orange cones in the indoor arena are stored on a ledge on the side of the arena that's at about the height of a horse's back.  Dawn's pretty used to me leading her and picking up cones and carrying them around the arena and dropping them, but I'd never attempted it from the saddle.  I moved her up next to the cones and picked one up and moved it around a bit - she didn't care.  Then I picked it up completely - this startled her and she skittered sideways.  I dropped the cone - this startled her too.  Clearly we needed to approach this more in a step by step way.  I dismounted and we worked with the cone.  She knows how to touch a cone from our clicker work, so we did this for a moment.  Then I worked on touching her jaw, neck and shoulders with the cone - this took a bit since she was wary at first.  I let her move as much as she needed to to stay comfortable.  Then I held the cone next to her sides, and finally held it near her withers and finally set it on the saddle - this gave her pause but she stood still.  That was enough for that day, so I told her she was very good, and I put the cone away for next time and remounted and we went back to work.  I've had great success with Dawn and scary objects using clicker, so today I may try using a tongue click and a treat to help with our carrying-the-cone work.

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