Sis, are you feeding the rocks to your dog? Not that you'd have to do that. I've seen that silly girl eat more grass than my horse and more horse poo than, well, I don't know anyone else that even eats horse poo!The work crew continues their prying and digging and leveraging. Thump. Whomp. Clomp. Sounds of rocks hitting the ground, the rock pile, and the trees. Oops. Unless it's a drag and rake, we typically just toss them out into the woods. I hope they don't sneak back in at night?
Notice how Princess Sadie has moved to a more supervisory role? And how convenient it is that Pony Girl is spending all of this time documenting all of their hard work? I mean- our hard work!? I know it looks like I was just taking pictures. But I really did work.I even had the stickiest job of them all, let me tell you. These mutants multiply like bunnies on a spring day. Like bling cowgirl boots on my sister's feet. Even strong garden gloves barely protected me from these spiky thistles. As I pulled each one up, I noticed their unique, almost carrot-like root system. Well, lacking the obvious orange color, of course. Interesting historical Pony Girl tidbit: The neighbor's farm my sister and I first took horseback riding lessons at was named "Thistledew Farm." Get it? "This'll do?" I always thought that was so clever.
After we got the arena in shape, we began hauling in some props. First came the little log, which we will practice walking and sidepassing over. Our horses walk over large downfall on the trails all the time, so this won't be a problem. Sidepassing over, from their backs and with them from the ground, might pose a new challenge.
We also put out cavaletti poles to practice trotting over. We can also arrange these into various shapes such as L's and squares, and practice backing in and out of them or 360-degree turns inside of them. I also brought out two plastic garbage bags. One was filled with crushed cans, and I tied it to a rope and hung it from the fence. I shook it every time I walked My Boy by it. Eventually I will stop him, pick it up, and shake it from his back.
I left the other plastic bag empty and tied it to the end of a stick. The first few times I just let My Boy sniff it. I tried not to laugh when his own breath hit the bag and caused it to move in and out, startling him a little.
When we approached this obstacle again later, I carried it and flopped it up, down, and from side to side of me as I walked, while I led My Boy behind me. He walked tentatively with his eyes on that scary white bag. But he kept following it, gaining confidence that it wasn't going to turn around and attack him. I think having your horse follow you with a scary object helps eliminate some of that prey animal fear. If the item is moving away from them, instead of towards them, they can become accustomed to it's look and sound without it being so threatening.
After I sensed that he was more comfortable, I approached My Boy with the stick and the bag and rubbed it on his neck and shoulder. He kept a cautious eye and ear on it, but tolerated it.
Our next challenge was the tarp. My sister's mare Brandy, who we call the spooky one (a daisy waving in the wind has been known to set her off) walked right on top of and over it with hardly a hesitation. The next challenge was to put the tarp on top of her. First, my sister dragged the tarp around the arena as she led her mare. Brandy didn't bat an eye. In fact, she almost looked like she was napping. It was time to try putting the tarp up on top of her. She wore it like a cooler and was unfazed.
Now it was My Boy's turn. I loved how My Boy walked to the edge of the tarp and stopped. He then looked at me, as if to ask me what I wanted him to do next. Well, fold it up, of course!Just kidding, silly boy. Really, just walk over it already!
My Boy got to wear a tarp cooler too! I'm not sure blue is your color, boy.
We were very proud of how our horses handled these props and obstacles. I did not ride My Boy, I approached and worked through everything with him on the ground. I think the most important thing for me was to not force my horse to face something new and scary and keep pushing it at him until he "got over it." I think this only reinforces to the horse that the object is indeed scary! Rather, I applied the prop (pressure) and as soon as My Boy sniffed it and relaxed a little, I removed the prop (release.) I felt this really showed my horse that these things looked and sounded scary, but were not going to jump up and get him. Then, I would move him on to a new obstacle, and revisit the previous one later. After a while, it was like, oh that crunchy bag of cans again. No biggie. Bring it on! I am no horse trainer by any stretch of the imagination. I just try to do what makes sense to me, from a logical, common sense perspective, as well as a horse behavior perspective. I found that with everything I showed my horse, even when he looked at it big-eyed, a little snorty, or with ears forward, he was still very curious and wanted to put his nose to it. That showed me that his motive was to learn more about it, and not just use his instinct to turn and flee in fear.
We were done horsin' around for the weekend. My Boy deserved a graze from this little patch of heaven for being such a good boy! Just watch out for those thistles, My Boy!