Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dawn: Still Rebuilding Feel . . .

No horse work yesterday - major dental work (me) instead, with more to come - repairs needed due to Dawn kicking me in the jaw back in 2009 and my coming off of Pie on my head and jaw in 2011, resulting in a number of fractured teeth and a bad bite misalignment.  I hate dental work, so enough of that . . .

Dawn is still troubled after her meltdown several days ago.  She's fine on crossties in the barn aisle in the evenings when the other horses are in, but it's no go when she's in the barn in the morning - she can't stand still in the aisle at all and is clearly extremely worried about it and seriously considering bolting.  So I tacked her in her stall, which she can cope with.  They were dragging the arena when we were ready, so I worked on her leading and some moving the hindquarters with feel.  As long as we were in the paddock area just outside the barn door nearest the mare pasture, she was able to focus and even relaxed a bit.

In the arena, though, she was still a hot mess, so we worked on the lunge, which turned out to be a good thing considering her emotional state.  My objective was to get walk, trot and canter on request in both directions, and transitions between them when asked, without drama.  It took us about an hour to get to that point, with some rest breaks where we stood together or worked some more on our leading and feel.  And there was a lot of drama - my first send out on the lunge resulted in bolting towards the barn door, with corkscrew rearing and bucking and squealing when she hit the end of the line, and more bucking, bolting and scooting after that.  We did a lot of work at the trot at first, to allow her to move to dissipate some energy and not feel confined.

Initially, getting by the barn door was a challenge - she was wanting to turn out there and also stop.  We finally got so we could go around fairly smoothly - she was still looking out from time to time - with decent walk/trot/walk transitions.  Finally I got some nice walk, trot and even canter, with transitions, to the left - this is her easier direction.  She generally has more trouble relaxing and giving to the right, and that showed up - it took a lot longer to get some feel and attention to the right.  Walk and trot worked out fairly quickly, but when I asked for canter, all bets were off - more scooting and lots of bucking and kicking out, although she did manage to stay on the circle and not attempt to bolt off.  We just kept working, and it finally came together.  It was far from perfect, but it was good enough for today - her halt on the lunge involved some turning in, which I don't want, and the canter, although without bucks or kicks, had a bit of "scoot" to it and wasn't relaxed, but she had done her best for me.  I praised her a lot at every step of the way, verbally and by rubbing her face and neck, when she was able to do what I wanted.

She was still very nervous down at the end of the arena near the "scary" barn aisle, but was able to stay with me even though I could tell she wanted to leave.  It was clear crossties were still too much, but after I untacked her in her stall, I was able to lead her down the barn aisle and back - she was worried but able to listen to me.  I did a lot of take two steps, ask for slowing or a stop for a second, and then continuing on.  I was pleased that she was able to stay with me and do this all the way to the pasture although she was worried.  And she walked off in the pasture rather than bolting away, which was also good.

I'll see how she is next work session - I think she'll get to where I want her to be on the lunge a bit faster, and we might get to riding if that works out, but I'm in no hurry.  I know she's capable of relaxing and being with me, but the worries a few days ago, combined with my younger daughter (who is Dawn's closest person) all of a sudden showing up for three days and then disappearing again, have upset Dawn quite a bit.  She's a horse who certainly tells you how she feels . . .

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