After Day Two (large pasture, lush grass and hay available) I figured Ciara would have an even more challenging site for Hops and me. I was wondering if she’d plop us into the pond…but, no, we were back in the round pen. This time the all of the horses were in the barn so I knew I could bring the big ball. (I figured if the horses were in the paddocks I could easily cause a riot if I tried to carry such a strange object past them to the round pen. That’s why I hadn’t brought this toy, yet.)
Ann Clifford came to help. Between us we carried the ball, the bucket, the soft rings, the canvass bag with rattling cans, three indestructible cones and a few carrot treats.
Hops and her mom are stabled upstairs in the bank barn. They’re the only two horses up there so both were brought to the round pen. Mom stood on the outside looking in. She was fascinated by all the goings on.
Although the late afternoon appeared to have perfect weather the big ball caught the slightest breeze and rolled. Mom and daughter were astonished. I went to the ball and asked Ciara to join me in the round pen. Ann held mom outside. Ciara and I rolled the ball back and forth, laughing, talking, playing. Hops watched.
I slowly rolled it to Hops. She put her nose on it and was quickly rewarded with “good!!!”
I placed the ball beside the fence and wedged it in with the toys. I brought out the ever-popular carrots and cones. Hops had us all laughing. She KNOWS that trick and is very efficient at moving the cone and eating the carrot.
I gathered the cones and played with the canvass bag. Hops was introduced to it yesterday and checked it out with her nose.
I showed her the soft rings, then tossed them. We both walked to them. She nosed the rings. I tossed them a few more times and Hops always went to them and nudged the rings. I waited, wondering if she’d pick them up. She did mouth them. I fetched the stiff brimmed hat and her lead line. I attached the line to her halter, held it and the halter in my right hand. With the hat in my left hand I placed it at her teeth. She opened her mouth and “mouthed” it. We did this a few times with a mesmerizing small walk in a circle between each attempt. We wrapped up the session with another look at the ball.
Today at our farm each of the horses had something new to contend with in the arena. Allen Pogue wants a 35-45 foot round pen for him to work in. He says, “One of the basic premises of the Imagineahorse training method is that by first schooling the horse in a small area you get more focus…too much area gives them way too many extraneous things to think about.”
Rick Parker (www.canadianwrangler.com) offered us a pen that is almost three feet high and is 36 feet in diametre. Bill and Ron fetched it and placed it in the arena Sunday. Since all of the horses here are familiar with electric fencing, the men placed some yellow tape on two of the barrier panels. This caught the horses’ attention! So far none of them have jumped the barrier or knocked it down. We’re planning on making certain neither of these things happen!!
A lady who discovered Allen Pogue and bought all of his DVDs came to watch the horses this morning. Pax had a wonderful time leaving me while we were at the far end. He trotted happily around the round pen, strolled over to our visitor, moved on to check out the toys and thought the new game which had me trotting around the pen to get to him was GREAT FUN! (Try to guess who was working harder…me or the horse!)
Next I showed the lady my boys. Z and Z were amazing. I had them both at liberty and actually got simultaneous bows.
On another note: Arthur Kottas is having a clinic in Uxbridge April 14-18. He’s giving an in-hand demonstration Saturday evening (we’re going to THAT). I bought a few of his DVDs dealing with in-hand work which is one of his methods for teaching collection. Because of our three feet by three feet pedestal we’ve inadvertently been working on collection since they were two years old. (You know, sometimes you just get lucky!)
Since the lady watching the horses today is an excellent horse person I asked her to help with Kottas’ collection work. Her job was to stand at the horse’s head, looking back at his entire body. My job was to stand near the hind quarters with a wand.
In the first exercise Kottas walks the horse along the wall, parallel to it. When you “whoa” you look at the hind legs. If they’re not side by side you ask the horse to move the one furthest back forward so that it’s beside (or closer to) the other leg/hoof. Well, both Z and Z figured out that game pretty fast. More often than not they halt with their hind legs side by side.
The next step is to ask the horse to stand still and alternately lift each hind leg. I’m using the wand to cue the individual foot and a voice cue. For the right hind to lift I say “right”. For the left hind I say “left”. The wand cue doesn’t necessarily have to touch the leg (these guys are smart and sensitive and do much better when I give a very slight cue with the wand). I indicate which leg by placing the wand a few inches away from the hoof/fetlock. This is easy to do with the near hind. For the other one I stand a bit further back so that I can reach around without touching the horse. He sees the wand out of the far eye which helps him figure out to raise the foot.
The horse is not walking forward with his front feet. He’s just raising and lowering the hind feet. I’ve done these exercises for three days in a row. The first two days I was the only handler. In spite of this handicap, the boys did figure out what I wanted.
During this session Zeloso offered up the Spanish Walk once or twice because someone was holding the cavesson at his head. That’s the position we stood in when we first taught him to extend a front leg. His brother had a different response. Once we got a rhythmical “left/right, left/right” with the hind feet Zelador offered a high front leg with a bend at the knee, sort of like a brilliant piaffe.
Tomorrow Christi and I will watch the section of the Kottas In-Hand DVD where he’s working with the young horse first learning collection. We’ll talk about what we see, decide who will do which job (head or hind end), then go work with the boys. (It’s always so nice to have a plan…)