Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dawn and I Work Things Out, and More Training for Drifter

We had thunderstorms last night, with lots of rain - 2.5 inches, I think - and today it's very windy and we're supposed to get more storms tonight, with very high winds and possibly hail.  Pie will take advantage of his stall for the first time tonight - it's great to have it available for conditions like this.

This morning Dawn and I had a good work session, but it took a while to get to that.  She was very antsy - we didn't ride in the outdoor as it was so windy - and the arena doors were banging and all the other horses were outside.  She made it very clear that she found conditions less than ideal - having to work in the morning when the other horses were in turnout - she could see them out the arena door, in an empty barn - with banging doors and dust blowing.  We did a bit of lungeing first - she was pretty braced and rushing, although her walk and trot were solid and sound - no signs of toe-dragging or unevenness.  We got to the point where she was more responsive and tuned in to me, so I got on.

As soon as I asked her to move forward, she started balking, and trying to turn towards the door to the pastures.  Rather than fight about it, which would have been counterproductive - I don't believe in getting into fights with my horses in general but this is especially true of Dawn - I jumped off and put her right back to work on the lunge.  I set up some cones as targets, and also partly closed the arena doors to cut down the wind and the view of the other horses.  The purpose of my lungeing her wasn't to tire her out, or to "make her work" since she wasn't being cooperative.  The purpose was to get her mind engaged and connected to me.  We did lots of walk and trot, with transitions and halts, as well as changes of directions, figure eights around cones and some straight line work as well.  At points when she was halted, we did some leading work, some tight turns and some backing out of my space as I walked towards her.  As we worked, her eye got softer, and when she softly nickered to me as I was working close to her on turns and backing, I knew we were in a better place, so I got back on.  Although she was still pretty up, everything was much better - forward was back and she was responsive.  We did a fair amount of walk and trot work, again using the cones.  She wasn't as distracted, and the doors were no longer scary.  When I turned her back out, she galloped off and I saw at least three very nice flying lead changes, so she's clearly feeling pretty confident about where her feet are and how they're working.

I don't do groundwork every day, but use it when I need to, if the horse is worried or distracted, in order to help the horse tune in to me and "connect".  It's quite likely that I won't need to lunge Dawn tomorrow, but we'll see.

Heather and I have talked and agreed that Drifter will stay with her through the month of May - this will bring his training period to 90 days - we're about halfway through that now.  We both think he's made really excellent progress, but has further to go in terms of developing his trust and also in his ability to deal with new situations or unexpected things without worrying so much.  She's going to get him out and around as much as she can, which should help him develop his confidence.  The nice thing is that means his training will end right when the Mark Rashid clinic will be there, and I'll be riding Drifter in it before he goes home.

He's got a small spot on his left eye right now - he apparently got poked in the eye by a piece of flying dirt or hay a couple of weeks ago.  Heather thinks his spookiness could in part be due to having a spot in his visual field. Although his eye was never teary, even after two weeks of antibiotic treatment, the eyelid remained puffy and the eye was still clearly a bit uncomfortable, and there was a grey spot still visible on the eyeball, so we had the vet out.  She sedated him, stained the eyeball and discovered that the outside of the injury had healed, but the spot meant there was still an ulcerated area under the surface.  So she nerve-blocked the eyelid so she could work on the eye itself and took a piece of sterile cotton and gently opened up the ulcerated area so it could drain and antibiotics could reach it.  So he's on antibiotic eye ointment for a while longer, and is also wearing a fly mask in turnout so his eye is shielded a bit from the sunlight and also from debris.

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