Monday, February 23, 2009

Herding Cattle!

John and I spent the weekend in Tulsa with his sister and mom. I came home from Tulsa after class to ride and feed Boomer and then John, Charley, and I drove back down to Tulsa. My ride Friday went really well. We worked on lots of walking and trotting. We did a few canter departs but the ground was really bad and I don't have quite the steering control I need yet at the canter to navigate mud holes, ruts, and flood spots. He did buck once. Every time he does it seems to be the first time I ask him and sometimes happens on both leads the first time. I'm hoping that will work itself out with experience and confidence on his part. When he does it I shut him down immediately and make him take a tight circle, then try again. Other than that, we worked on leg yields which are still getting better and better. Again, the ground is not ideal. It is a good sized area, but there are no 'walls. One side has a fence with a trash can strapped near the corner, the other corner has Boomer's gate. One long side has a junk pile (grrr), and the other long side has a flood spot followed by low hanging branches. The top short side has a tree and the round pen. So, no visual cues as to where to go. Plus the footing is just packed dirt and there are ruts, muddy sink holes, and the occasional debris. All of this put together makes leg yields a little difficult. He really ignores my aids and picks his way through the ruts and I don't blame him. We also worked on the turn on the haunches, or walk pirouette. That is really difficult for him but he does try. Turning to the left is better for him. After I dismounted, we went to the round pen and I got on and off a few times from the rail. He was really good about it. I got on him and very slowly went through each stage of dismounting. He didn't pin his ears at all as long as I went very slowly. Unfortunately, I can't slowly drop to the ground, so we were kind of stuck there. I didn't reconcile that until Sunday when I had John's help. Overall, I was really happy with his progress. I have been feeding him on the platform again and he is doing great. He stomps his feet and it doesn't bother him at all. That tells me he is used to hearing and feeling the hollow wood under him. He gets off of it by either backing up or by slowly turning around and walking off. Either way, he stays so calm and steady. I love letting a horse teach himself!

Saturday evening, we got home just in time to feed before dark. I did get a great ride on Sunday though! We took a trail ride and ran into some cows right away! There were 5 of them, a few bigger ones (maybe yearlings) and a few itty bitty babies! They were so cute! Boomer approached them with his head up and ears pricked. They were so forward they were almost touching! We approached them, circled around them and Boomer chased them up the fencline to their pasture through the open gate. The smallest baby didn't know what he was supposed to do because his momma was on the other side of the fence next to him but his 'herd' was running from the horse! Finially momma starting balwling and walking the fencline and baby ran to catch his 'herd'. Adorable! Boomer thought it was great fun and kept breaking into a trot! I think about 70% of him loves cows and the other 30% is still convinced that they may turn on him at any moment and eat him! After the cow incident we found a great spot to ride! There is a corner of the pasture that has been mowed down and is the size of a large arena! I used it to work on cantering. Boomer gave a few BIG bucks which I shut down, then I made him work on a nice slow trot for a while to calm himself. Then I asked again and got the best, most beautiful canter yet! I took him aorund a time or two and then let him woah and stretch his neck out and relax. I priased him like crazy and I think he knew he was good! We walked a bit more then returned to the mowed area and worked a little more on cantering. It wasn't as good, but it was also his right lead. So, I am confidant that will all come with time. Once we walked back to the paddocks, I had John hold Boomer as I worked on dismounting. I slowly got to the point that I was laying across his back and started to slowly slide before he pinned his ears. John held him still and kept him under control. I took a few steps to the side and because John was in control, I could stay on and worry about maintaining my position. If John hadn't been there, I would have had to jump down to control the horse, thus enforcing his thought that pinned ears gets rid of the rider. Once he calmed down, I had John put an arm around my waist and help me to the ground slowly. Boomer stayed calm and kept his ears up and head down the whole time. That went off perfectly. I am so glad that I had John there to help me! He handled Boomer's attitude calmly and controlled the horse exactly as I would have wanted! I think that dismounting must have bothered him because it happened so fast. He doesn't like quick movements so we need to get him used to me dismounting slowly before I can get back to mounting and dismounting normally again. I think that having John around will be a perfect help, but when I ride and he isn't there, I will just try to use the fence.

I went to ride Pete after all of this but he led me around the pasture not wanting to be caught. I got pretty tired of chasing him and gave up. There is no way I was going to wander around 17 acres trying to catch another person's horse! I am a little frustrated with that whole situation because I feel like no matter how well I train him, he will always be too much horse for a beginner. The only way he would be a good steady horse for his owner is if she took lessons for a few years until Pete was a few years and had a bunch more experience. Pete's owner is having shoulder surgery sometime soon and will be out for a few months after that. As it is now, she doesn't want to work with him because she is so sore from he fall last week. So, I am not sure what their goals are, but I think they just want me to put miles on him until she can ride. Even then, I am afraid he will be too young and too much horse for a beginner. I guess I will work on riding him twice a week and just kind of see how it goes from there. I may also ask her to put him up in his stall on Monday and Wednesday so I don't have to chase him.

I'm off to study Biology until the weather warms up to 60, then I'll be out to ride!

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