Tuesday 19 July 2022

Full Speed Ahead

 Well, maybe not *full* speed, but moderately paced doesn't have the same ring to it. After the last month of feeling sick and sorry for myself and doing exciting things like sleeping 16 hours a day, going back to a moderately paced average week feels hectic and exhausting. But never mind that, I'm just thrilled to be back out riding, puttering away at the property, and catching up with friends (for now, let's pretend I don't have a job, the less said about the backlog I've accumulated at work with the better part of a month off, the better ;)

Here, have a Sophie picture

Bridget has been pretty wild, although I know her so well I feel pretty safe up there. Despite all the snorting, prancing, and humping her back, she's not one to spook or bolt off or generally endanger herself or her rider out on a hack. Cantering and jumping would be putting my life at risk at the moment, but I'd like another week of walk/trot before we get back to a bit of that anyway. Last week I did 20-30 minutes of walking under saddle each day, this week I'll add in trot and maybe a bit of canter towards the end. She feels very strong and energetic, but I'm cautious not only because she's reverted to a semi feral state - three months off would have done nothing for her under saddle fitness and I don't want to risk straining or injuring anything via doing too much too soon.

B living her best life in the backyard :)

But also not so subtly hinting she'd like her stall in the barn finished already! We're so close, Bridget.

Sophie, on the other hand, has been not wild. Her farrier appt somehow coincided with a hay delivery at the barn, and an excavator working on the other side of the fence. She stood quietly over by the parking and was a total pro - big win for a pony who normally has trouble standing still and not fidgeting/getting distracted long enough for one foot, let alone all four. I got a message a few days ago asking if I'd bring her for use in an Equitation Science demo. They were looking for a quicker thinking, higher energy, distractable horse and somehow the organizers thought of Sophie? lol. So of course I said yes, dragged her out of the field after 6 weeks of doing nothing, took her to the fair grounds and expected her to deliver on those requirements. And of course she yawned and slept and was super dull and basically acted like Opposite Sophie with a load of tranquilizers on board. The one time she had a free pass to be 110% Sophie and she was like "no, nevermind" and didn't put a foot wrong. I felt a bit sorry for the clinician because adding to that, apparently a lot of the groundwork I do mirrors the ES teachings so Sophie just did the thing and there wasn't much in the way of a demo of how to train.

Banana Pony is consistently inconsistent. She lets her feelings be known and it's always to the extreme - this weekend we must have interrupted nap time in a big way.

On the ES subject, there is a lot I really like about it. If you've had horses a long time or had a good mentor I think a lot of it is things you might have instinctively picked up or been taught as good horsemanship, so it's kind of neat to connect the dots on why those things work so well from a basic animal behavioral science view. The basic principles of it just sense to me.  I know I've said here before a lot of the natural horsemanship teachings don't quite connect in my brain. I know they work for many people, so I'm not making judgement, but for me I think it's important I understand the hows and whys of what I teach my horses if I want to be successful. With most of the NH trainers I've been left with more questions than answers...some of it just doesn't suit my learning style perhaps.

I'll leave you with an interesting thing from this weekend's demo. When leading or doing groundwork with my horses, it's been a thing for a while that they should follow my intention and my feet. For example, if I start walking forward, they mirror me. I take a step towards their shoulder, they move said shoulder away. No pulling, poking, touching. They have their space and I have mine. My what nicely trained horses I have :) It's fantastic for Bridget, but reality of that with a sensitive, busy horse (like Sophie, or for really long term readers, Ginger)  is that you're like "yes, good pony" except "no actually, don't swing your quarters away, I need to pick up your foot" "No, actually, please just stand still while I walk towards you with the clippers" "No actually, I just want to put this jump up, please stay back there" "No actually don't move away or follow me this time because...etc etc" Last night we added in a very simple cue to ask Sophie to start moving when I do. If that cue isn't given, guess what? She 'parks' in place until I give that cue.

So simple, definitely a 'why didn't I think of that' kind of thing. I also like that if they've been 'parked' they can just chill and relax and zone out until given a cue....I felt like before they still had to keep at least half an eye on me and what I was doing because if I was moving around, surely they should be too? How confusing that must have been for them and a good example of something that I had left a big gaping hole in and the how to fix it hadn't really connected with me coming from the NH angle...I think if I had pondered on it I would have thought my horses should read my energy as to whether to move or not, but the reality was it stayed pretty unreliable (and my energy is likely all over the place on any given day so who can blame them).

One more pic at Camp Bridget where all continues to go well and I'm just so happy to have her at our own place.



  1. Glad you are getting back in the groove! Interesting about the ES. I have been doing the Mary Wanless groundwork on dressagetrainingtv and it is based on ES. I love it and how well the MW version relates to under saddle cues. Good stuff.

    1. Yes! Loving how everything is consistent whether in the ground or in the saddle, so much simpler and logical! Also love MW's stuff, never been lucky enough to audit a clinic but the books and online info is gold!

  2. I am sorry but Sophie and Bridget vie for cutest ponies EVER and will always win in my book. And your bridget abode is looking amazing :)

  3. I came into this really really wanting a fancy new barn (spoiled princess, I know!) but now I'm so glad we saved this one, it's quirky and unique and suits the property so well.

  4. I too have struggled with some NH methods because I couldn't see how the ground work translated to the ridden work. After watching & trying out the Mary Wanless work, it really clicked for me too.
    On another note, we have moved from Ontario to a property in PEI on 4 acres and now I am paying even more attention to your farm renovations. Your set up appeals to me as it seems so sensible. I don't need fancy - just functional. There is no horse yet, but hopefully in a few years there will be.

    1. Oh thats so exciting! Marines/PEI is my dream one day. I'm glad you're enjoying my little barn updates, I need to be better about documenting them. I was hesitant to share at first because it's not noteworthy or fancy, but the feedback seems to be basic and functional is what most of us really want! 😁