Friday, 26 February 2010


As ever not happy with myself and my own performance affecting B's on the inhand work we had a reprise last night to see if I could find some progress.
I brought both the girls in, put B in her bridle and rope halter (...never mentioned that she has completely outgrown the headcollar she came down to me in, proper grown up girlie now!) And left Dee in the corral with a pile of hay. As Bally and I ventured out into the field Dee came over to the gate once then happily went back to being enclosed on her own and ate her that's blummin progress!!

Gave B a few minutes circle work off the halter and then popped the reins onto the bit and tried again...Success!!
Not sure whether my attitude and feel were better or Bally was more accepting - probably a mixture, but things were much improved!! Although she was very mouthy to the contact it was a soft mouthing with a steady head and neck and I was easily able to direct her shoulders because everything was soft and flowing.
She was able to keep this feeling for a few minutes at a time, so got plenty of reward and praise. I found that standing further back than I had been seemed to help her and it was much easier to get a soft flexion of her neck. Must revisit my video of the session with Becky to check back what she was doing and compare positioning.
We even managed to get some really good slow sideways steps on each rein too *yay*

Let B have a good stretch out and then lengthened the reins and asked for two small circles on each rein with a fluid change of bend at a semi longlining distance...and got them as well!!!!

Stopped there as I was really pleased and I could see Bally was chuffed with herself too

Thursday, 25 February 2010

One step at a time

Bit of an up and down day yesterday. It was raining heavily so wanted to work Bally but leave her rug on...inhand was the perfect choice!

Once again B was generous enough to stand loose in the field whilst I popped her bridle and cavesson on :-D Dee most definitely wanted to get in on the act though and walked up bold as brass and started mouthing the whip and my reins

Led Bally out on to our flat and thankfully not too soggy schooling bit (with Dee still following closely behind! ) To start I'd attached my reins to the cavesson and passed them through the bit rings so she'd get a feel on the bit but not a direct contact. B was good, nicely forward and attentive and softening to pulses on the rein. Managed some passable inside flexion and a little leg yield on the circle Once we'd done about 15 minutes I thought I'd try a little close up long lining (me at hip / bum level) and got some really good circles and changes of direction from her...once or twice B thought about pulling away but as she was on the cavesson I could give a firmer "no!!" on the outside rein, release it and immediately bring the inside rein out and fowards to put her on a circle so she wasn't going anywhere *whistle*

Once I'd had another couple of good circles and 8's I gave her a good stretch and a break whilst I put the reins directly on the bit for a very short..this is OK it won't hurt you..session.
Straight away she was tenser and fussier as I asked her to walk on, so we had a minute or two of standing and me just gently vibrating the bit ring until she relaxed her jaw, then releasing as a reward. Went back to a few minutes of work from the bit...defintely a very slow work in progress as she remained unsettled. I have to be very, VERY careful not to fix my hand against her tension - I caught myself a couple of times - very bad habit. Bally made her displeasure instantly clear and threw her head about. She also felt a lot heavier on her inside shoulder throughout the bitted work than she does on the cavesson - definitely not working with me. As this is such an imperative stage of her training I will taking this contact issue very slowly and may well back her bitless...we'll see how we get on over the next six weeks or so.

Whilst pondering this we suddenly had a lot of commotion, bored by wandering around Dee and the BB decided to took off and galloped right past us :-o
Bally - understandably upset by this had a bit of a tap dance, I dropped the rein contact and held the cavesson and the front of her rug and brought her straight onto a small circle again. She did really well not to lose the plot as the naughty pair of so & so's then span round and galloped right back at us, wheeling around and bucking as they went past!!!!
Thankfully they galloped off again and although I attached the reins to the cavesson (taking no chances) I couldn't get any softness and Bally remained in giraffe mode :-( I worked for a couple more minutes until I at least had some semblance of attention and then stopped and led her in.

But...on the positive side she coped with a major distraction and I was able to keep her with there is some benefit to working in the field with naughty babies - between Dee, the BB and football matches working in at dressage should be a breeze

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Sunday was a Dee day!

I led her in from the field through a couple of streams and a monster puddle - this little filly leads better than any other youngster I've ever known...although under pressure she can be as "get awaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!" as the best of them lol!
In to the corral and all good, no panic from her as she realised she was in on her own without Bally....well until Bally and BB had a squealing faceoff at the gate and both beggared off up the field at high speed a bucking and a farting all the way *sigh* She went to pull away, gave me a headshake and brought her forelegs off the ground when she met with firm resistance, to which I just verbally reprimanded her and backed her up, then asked her forwards....calm and good manners restored!

I wanted to do some very baby basic circle / start of distance work with a bit of desensitisation thrown in. We were staying in the corral for safety!

Started with basic leading and checking we had a good reaction to following my body language / vocal cue to make turns in and away, halting and backing. Then I just asked for the same work but about 5 ft away from her and she seemed to pick it up really well...until she had a big nap over towards the gate - we had a repeat of her earlier frustration when I stopped her and treated it the same way...and I moved her even further away from the gate lol!

We then moved on to standing still and increasing my distance away from her, it took a few goes for her to pick up what I wanted. Each move forwards was dealt with by me simply backing her straight back to where I'd put commands, but a "good girl" only when she was stationary.

I then played with touching her all over with the line - she's already excellent at being touched all over now (far, far better with her poll and ears than she was yay!!), tolerates leg straps and is happy being brushed everywhere you can run a brush ;-) so we didn't have too much of an issue with this. Then I introduced the lunge whip....ooooh now that was scary!

I tied the lash up and first of all let her sniff it and moved it around in front and to the side of her - she was watchful, but not too concerned, so standing to the side I rested it on her back...

And wheeeeee off she went!

I just asked her to steady and stand and as soon as she did I lifted the whip, after a couple of repeats I was able to stroke the whip along her back and down her legs with her attention on it, but standing still. I repeated this from the other side and straight away she accepted me touching her with it.

I gave her a little break at this point and let her off the lead for a munch on her haynet.

Back to work and she happily let me touch her with the whip again and even stood as I stroked it up her neck. She ducked her head as I brought it over her ears (going by her reaction to being touched here initially I expected fireworks!) and as I just repeated it slowly and quietly she lowered her head and accepted it! Lots of praise and scratches for being such a good girl.
I upped the ante at this point and unfurled the lash and just had a play wiggling it about and draping it over Dee. She had a scoot twice, but again just waited until she stopped, praised and lifted the pressure.

I ended up being able to gently wave it about over our heads with no reaction...couldn't really ask for much more than that so called it a day!

At this stage I'll probably only do one work / play session a week with Dee. Mainly desensitisation stuff - making sure leading is absolutely 100% over, under and through things and have the odd wander up the lane. This is on top of being led in every day and having her feet / rugs etc done. Plenty enough for baby!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Working and Walking out

Couple of days to catch up on.....

Friday - lunging!

I had thought I'd have to go right back to the start again with Bally and the lunging, but should have known she's far too smart for that *rolleyes*
Led her in with no shenanigans, tacked her up and out into the field we went. Started with a nice marching walk on a large circle and then using the whip and my position in relation to hers added small circles, straight lines and corners (have to use my imagination as to where the markers would be...not many to hand out in the wild yonder of this field lol) Bally was like an old pro and did everything on the button Yay!!

On to transitions and half halts and as usual her left rein were sharper than her right, so she had a couple of corrections on the rein to remind her that halt means halt, not slowly creep another five steps and turn in!
Nicely warmed up I popped the running reins on (again very loose and not holding her anywhere, just for the feel of the rein on the bit) and we did some trot work, mirroring what we'd done in the walk, well again she was fabby. Great on her easy left rein... A bit rushed on the right so I added the half halts and smaller circles almost straight away to get her think and it worked a treat :-)

Finished off with some nice long stretchy walk work and then did a quick couple of minutes in hand work off the cavesson. Got some really really brilliant leg yield, just five or six steps on the circle, but she was so soft and flowing I was just *yahoo!!!!!*

BTW Dee wandered over and got in the way a few times, but obviously decided that B could do all the work Lol ;-)

On to today and I took Bally out for a lovely hack

First off I had to say hello to a very sleepy Little Dee

Like Bally she had no problem with me coming up and saying hello for a scratch whilst she snoozed in the sun...I am blessed with the looking after the loveliest girls!!

Anyway Bally and I wandered in and I tacked her up with her hacking tack...saddle, bridle and loads and loads of fluorescent gubbins. She didn't bat an eye at having her saddle on (first time in..yonks!) Popped her rope halter and long line on and off we went.

Much, much more forwards - yet far calmer this time, we went up the lane again. One moment of absolute heart failure on Bally's part about five minutes in. There are some beautifully landscaped fishing lakes across the lane from us and B took enormous exception to a chap sitting in his chair about fifty feet away completely minding his own business...this caused a full on, anchor slam giraffe necked dragon snorting meltdown
I had to coax her past as she did her very best Ayrab impression PMSL
On we went once calm was restored, we met cars coming both ways and were managing to just completely ignore them and keep walking which is a big step I think
We turned and went up the hill towards the yard, past some big signs advertising the garden opening (approach, sniff, click, treat *big Grin*) she saw horses in the distance and stayed calm and with me, she said hello to some decorative boulders..but had to be persuaded as they were obviously out to get her .....

She even paid no attention to a couple flying a model airplane that was buzzing around in the sky above her. She looked at it a few times as it swooped about and just walked on unconcerned

We turned around after about 20 minutes and made our way back down the hill uneventfully

Here's gorgeous girl back on the lane approaching home

And this one really brings home why it's imperative to wear fluoro gear - this was lunchtime on a bright winters a car you'd barely see her next to the trees until it was too late :-$

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A little lunging

In hand and lunging session last the field (I obviously haven't learnt my lesson yet)

Tacked Bally up in the field rather than drag her through the muddy gateway - totally fine with her bridle - she was standing completely loose so could have left at any point in the proceedings

I worked from reins on her portuguese cavesson and she was fabby - flexing, soft and very much with me. I was really pleased with this. We even had a little play at leg yield both on a circle and straight and she had a lovely try. I only asked for a few steps then clicked and treated but I'm sure we can build this up!
On to the lunging and It was just a short session to re-establish working on a line in the field with her calm, steady and listening. Well she didn't put a hoof wrong !!!! All her transitions were soft and she had a lovely forwards seeking the contact frame. We could have done with a touch more energy to get her to actually work herself, but for this session I was keeping everything quite deliberately steady.

I popped some running reins on for a couple of circuits each way just so she could feel the weight of the rein on her mouth and again she was quiet and accepting, mouthing gently as she got the feel on her mouth, but no hint of panic or soreness..yay!!

What did make me chuckle was the fact that Little Dee obviously felt she was missing out on all the fun, so she wandered over to us then tucked herself in behind Bally and followed her around the circle
Then she came over to the middle to say hello so I sent her out and she just followed B round again...if she keeps this up she'll be ready made at three! :-)

All done - I was really pleased with how well the session had gone so untacked B and gave the girls their evening feed. Once they were done I opened the gate and went to lead them out well the BB charged through the gate into the corral and set about winding Bally & Dee up to the point I had three of them galloping about, making great divots and skids in the grass, refusing to be herded out the gate ARGH!!
Eventually got both my girls out (they were actually quite meek about it once I caught them) but that Bloody Buckskin refused point blank to let me near and kept up a wall of death gallop around and around. I resorted to propping the gate open and waving a longline and cracking my lungewhip at her in the end :-o
Not my favourite pony at the moment!!

Monday, 15 February 2010


Roped in Superhubby as chief car watcher yesterday so I could take Bally for her first in hand hack from the new field. Just wanted an extra pair of hands on the ground as it had been quite a long time since her last hack, out down a new road...and she'd still been a bit flustered about cars approaching her when we were working last year - since she time the idiot woman nearly skidded into us (grrr!)

She came in OK, planted in the gateway as she realised Dee wasn't coming dinner wasn't immediately in the offing! Bit of nifty feet moving and we were in.
Tied B up with haynet and got all the gear out (we have fluorescent EVERYthing) along with the clicker bag - specifically to help with the bridling...but Bally was really good, held her head a touch high but lowered it when asked and then accepted the bit without too much asking, no hint of panic this time thank goodness!

All togged up and off we went, plan was just to go to the end of the lane and back. Good start - we hadn't gone 50 yards before a lovely chap in a white van with ladders on the roof came round the corner, he pulled right in for us and I just kept Bally walking and although a little looky, she didn't try to speed up..yay!

She was on high alert though and wouldn't take food reward after clicking, always a sign she's finding what we are doing challenging. So I worked on keeping her calm, letting her have a look at things and praising quiet behaviour.

Passed by another couple of cars and again B was great, a look nothing more :-)

Got to the end of the lane and she could see a couple of horses hacking out up on the horizon which made her go into I'm not listening la-la giraffe mode, so as I had the opportunity and the coast was clear I asked for head lowering and feet moving to get her attention back on the task in hand - it did take a minute or two which is a bit concerning when we were by the side of a road - we won't always have that luxury! So long as I always keep my approach exactly the same when she does this (calm, low energy and focussed on what I want) then I'm sure we'll be able to keep a lid on her sometimes OTT reactions.
She'll be coming across lots of new scary situations again this year and I want to make each one a good learning experience, not a stressful one. I would use the clicker - and always try to, but I don't think she'll let me in those situations where we need it the most (just a bit frustrating!)...well time and lots more practice with it at home will help I hope!

Anyway around we turned once order had been restored and we walked and trotted back up the road, passing another car, all good - we even got up close and personal with a wheelie bin (good associations - I keep my chaff in one so as far as B is concerned they are full of goodies not monsters!)
On past the field and back down the lane to the gate where B did really well to contain herself as B B, Bonita and Little Dee all bucked and yee-haa'd and larked about as we came by.
Plan is to take her out for a wander at least twice, if not three times a week gradually building up the distance as it gets lighter in the evenings and exploring new routes, so that as soon as it's time to back her there'll be no surprises about where we're going :-)

Saturday, 13 February 2010

....Followed by some Lows and Highs!

Designated today as a spook busting training day for Bally!

Idea came to me as when I arrived at the field this morning they were just starting a football training session - it was the very littles - about 5-6 years old, so lots of running around and squealing and yelling (and that was just the coaches ...pmsl)

The girls led in just fine, tied up on the fence at the back of the goal they were using and contentedly munched away with the occasional head lift to check out the entertainment over the fence! Superstar ponies!

Obviously as crowd training going so well I had to up the ante slightly so planned a fun session for this afternoon, incorporating clicker work.

It didn't start very well :-(

Brought Bally in and she was hyped as soon as she realised she was in and Dee wasn't. So even walking her from the gate to the barn she was tense. I just insisted on forwards thinking every time she stopped and thought backwards... so keeping her feet moving, asking her to lower her head and getting attention and focus...well I got her up to the barn and tied up with a haynet.
I'd already decided to go back to the way we'd been working before the break - bridle on every session whether it's going to be used or not, and I felt it was quite important to tackle this asap as I thought she might be a bit hesitant about it after what happened on Tuesday.

A bit hesitant doesn't even come soon as I lifted it towards her she reared and span, snapping the metal clasp on her rope and the top spar of the gate she was tied to.

Major issue to get round! I let her run herself down in the corral and just waited till she became calmer, got my long line, caught her and brought her back round to the barn.

.....And got the clicker straight out to work on changing her focus....

B worked really well through each step - bridle in front of her, stay standing....touch it with her nose....let me lift it and touch her, let me hold it close and touch her ears..then her mouth, right through in about 20 minutes to letting me put it on.


Then with me working from a long line on her rope halter we just had a nice easy walk around the paddock working on halts, turning, backing etc on a nice loose lead...easy peasy stuff to build her confidence and trust back up.

Bally was back to her lovely sunny self now so I thought I'd give her a challenge and do some clicker work with spooky things like crinkly noisy flappy plastic food sacks to get her thinking and working out what behaviours to offer to get her reward.

We had the best session EVER! It really was the first time I think I really, truly realised the potential of the clicker with a horse of her nature - Bally is so sensitive and reactive and this makes her stop and think and most important of all try to figure out what to do rather than just slam the anchors on or run.

First off I dragged the sacks out, spread them around the corral and worked on clicking for her approaching and touching, and wasn't long before she was moving them about with her nose and merrily walking past, then onto and over them, and finally wearing them as I upped the ante to get the treat.

Bally was having a ball, completely relaxed and working so hard, so as I had about 15 treats left I got my pop up umbrella out and we worked through touching it closed, standing still and watching it open, walking with me carrying it up and finally letting me move it in an arc from in front of her, over head and back down to in front of her with her quietly standing head lowered and watching it.

I was running out of treats so stopped, used the last couple to get her bridle off quietly and calmly then gave her a jackpot (...her dinner) and taking the bumbag off ended the session there!
Bless her she really wanted to work and she worked so hard, but seemed to enjoy it tremendously...I know I did :-)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

More Highs and Lows

I checked Bally thoroughly yesterday morning, she wouldn't come over to me and my heart sank, but she let me approach her and pop her headcollar on, then led in nicely and tucked into her breakfast whilst I looked her over and she was fine, thank goodness!

I know everyone will think I am completely mad, but last night when I went up I put on her rope halter and a lunge line and walked her out to the spot in the field where we'd had the accident and asked her to work with me

She was very tense, not helped by Dee and the bloody buckskin (as it will henceforth be known) charging about bucking and kicking and generally looning around. But I felt it was crucial to have some attentive, quiet compliance out there. To know that I can get and hold her attention with distractions around, get her to listen and to remain or become calm even when she's on high alert and ready to run.

We did it!!!!!

I just worked on some head lowering, asking her to back on a light aid, using the rope to yield her quarters and then asking her to walk on a circle...
I'll be honest it took quite a bit of doing - B was very tense and nervy to start, but by keeping my energy very low and keeping my focus on exactly what I wanted from her - keeping my asks very, very small and quiet...making sure everything was an ask not a pressure inducing demand we built up to it and after ten minutes work I was able to get her to walk, trot and halt with her relaxed and stretching and feeling like she was happily with me.

We then had a lovely loose lead wander back across to the corral where the others were and she had a groom and her tea. I was so pleased with her for trying so hard and beating her demons

It would have been a lovely end to the day ....But, well as this week seems determined to be as crappy as possible, I then proceeded to have a car accident on an icy road when I was going to take my Daughter and Granddaughter shopping. Lost control on a hill where several cars had already left the road - one badly wrapped around a tree, and went into the back of someone.

If I wasn't already suffering because of being trampled and dragged on Tuesday I am now. I'm aching all over and feeling very stiff and fed up!!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

And what comes after pride....

A bloody crashing great fall.

As I said on FB I'm not sure what's broken the most, my confidence, Bally's trust in me, my thumb, my groin or my bloody Bvlgari glasses, but all are dented in a major fashion.

So what happened today? To be honest I'm not sure why it all went so catastrophically wrong today, over confidence, bad timing, no planning and poor judgement I guess.

Anyway I decided to re-introduce a little long lining for Bally and brought her in - she was a touch spooky, jumped and pulled back when she caught sight of her gear hung over the barn post (helloooooo clue number 1!!!)
I moved her feet to the side and asked for forwards and she walked in no problem, tucked into a haynet whilst I brushed and tacked her up. I did a bit of inhand work with her and she was fine, then proceeded to lead then long line her around the corral and as it was going so well thought she could do 10 minutes around the edge of the field (Yes in a field with 5 other loose horses *rolleyes* )
We started off fine Bally was nicely forwards and watching for my rein and body cues to keep her on track, I was feeling quite chuffed we pootled along. I asked for some halt transitions and she was quite antsy and a bit head tossy, not halting from my voice at all, so I brought her onto a circle, made it smaller and halted her off the head collar then asked for some backwards steps

All good again and on we went, a bit of a moment when the buckskin filly came screaming up the field, bucking and whinnying. I just halted B after a bit of a tap dance from her being a bit dithery and once filly cleared off, asked B to walk on.

Now as I was longlining from my lunge lines I had them dragging out behind me and what I'm pretty sure happened was that Buckskin filly had wheeled round, caught sight of the lines and started following...then trod hard on one and caught it...Bally still moving forwards got socked in the mouth and exploded!
She jumped and rammed her head down, pulling me off balance, then in a split second leapt, kicked out and span back towards me. She hit me as I was trying to get out of the way and the pair of us got tangled in the lines. I'd hit the dirt by this point shoulder first then got pulled onto my back as my right hand and I think my leg too was caught in the line so I got pulled. Completely tangled up - she'd even got one of the lines in her mouth :'-( Bally had tumbled over too and as I tried to get up she was flailing around on her back. I admit screaming and bursting into tears at this point.
I managed to scramble up and got over to her as she managed to find her feet and get up. The pair of us were shaking from head to foot. Bless her Bally stood stock still as I felt over her legs and untangled and completely untacked her where we stood. Thankfully she just seemed shaken, no rope burns from the line. I'm sure she'll be sore tomorrow (I'll pop her a Danilon in her breakfast) and I hate to think how long it'll be before she'll happily accept a bit again.
So there we go what a, excuse my language, fecking disaster.

After several Ibuprofen, wine, a hot bath and comfort food courtesy of my lovely husband, I'm sporting a wrenched shoulder and groin and a very bruised right hand and swollen thumb...oh and a completely snapped pair of glasses

Serves me right for my stupidity.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Tipping the balance

So What did Diddy Dee Dee get up to yesterday?

Well I did mention that whilst Bally was having kittens over approaching the screaming hordes to come in Dee was merrily wandering along the fence line sticking her head over to say hello to people!

She's a proper monkey and doesn't seem fazed by much...except being manhandled by male vets, or being in a stable (and I can safely state that on the two occasions I've experienced her being manhandled by male vets IN a stable has just about seen WW3 breaking was um hairy to say the least!) She has an absolutely super sweet nature, but like all youngsters by golly lets you know when she isn't happy...usually by going straight over or straight through you :-o

So we've been gently working on things she not keen on, using advance and retreat and the old calm, patient persistence with lots of reward for tries on her part.

Having seen her going vertical over having her head touched (she had a nasty cut on her forehead when she was younger that needed vet can imagine the rest!!) I can now pop her headcollar on and off over her ears like a bridle, touch all over her head, stroke her ears and I'm just working on being able to stroke around her mouth with the intended goal of being able to check in her mouth with her remaining happy and relaxed about it. She's absolutely fine to be stroked, brushed and scratched everywhere else, even notoriously tickly bits!

Other things I'm working on are her being happy about going into enclosed spaces...which now means I can't keep her OUT of the feed room lol! Tying up and remaining standing without trying to tie herself in knots (she's now tied up every feed and we've progressed to tying up and then bringing the feed out and remaining tied when she's finished...although this is definitely a work in progress.
We also need lots of practice at being foot perfect about hoof picking out and trimming.....So every day I pick her feet out and every weekend I "do" her feet - holding them up for longer at trimming height, holding her legs between my legs and resting her hooves up on my knees and using my rasp. I'm hopeful that when Ellie comes back in six weeks she'll notice a massive difference in Dee's ability to cope with all the palaver!
Her leading manners are excellent - I can walk , trot and reinback with minimal aiding, she's cracking the turn away whilst walking & trotting and she's 100% good to catch (helps in our situation!!)

So yesterday afternoon after Bally had been out on her road trip, I brought both girls in and tied them up opposite each other - Dee in the open barn (with the gate /bar across) and Bally on the fence by the road (good for getting her used to cars going swooshing past...I pretty much don't do anything without finding a training benefit / angle these days lol!!)
Then I gave them their dinner and a small haynet. Once Dee had finished her feed and was tucking into her haynet I started her trim practice....without thinking I went for her left fore first as it was closest (she's had a previous injury on this leg and can be a little sticky with it). Well she snapped it up and let me hold it, but as I put it down and changed to face the front then lifted it up onto my knee she went vertical and came down on top of the bar :-o So she was stuck - left foreleg over it and right just about on the ground with all her weight on the ominously creaking gate...eeek!
Thankfully she was completely calm about the situation and stood stock still whilst I gently manouevered her leg off the bar......oh boy was that a scary moment! But I kept a lid on my panic as best I could and calmly and quietly moved her back and lifted her foot again. Ok this time thank goodness and I was able to finish when I wanted.

I was able to work round OK and only had one other sticky moment, right hind this time when she pulled it away and rather than pull it out and put it down in a loss of balance which is fine...she cow kicked - and this time she got a real growling at and I backed her up sharpish - that's one I won't tolerate!

Leading her out she was still a little antsy and pushy as I think she was quite rattled, and not "with" me, so I did some feet moving - forwards & back and asking her to move her quarters, then asking for a flex side to side and a head lower with gentle rhythmical asks, praising for each soft try...and bingo, my sweet natured happy little filly was back...and why? I think her loss of control and her sensing my panic subtly changed her perception of the balance in the relationship and this was enough to either upset and unsettled her or push her to challenge me....interesting thought!!

I let her loose and she was super relaxed about me removing the headcollar, so we had a scratchy session and I stroked her face and around her muzzle...good stuff!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Bloody Fantastic

Oh what a brilliant day!!!

It was great to have such a positive start back into training schedule on Friday and Bally seems to be really happy to be back doing things to make her think...and there's always the huge amount of praise she keeps earning herself ;-)

So this morning was a perfect opportunity to start crowd training as the pitches in the corner of the field had three lots of matches on - Loads of lads running around playing, balls flying everywhere, flags fluttering and parents and coaches yelling their heads off....perfect!
Well Bally didn't think so to start.....
I opened the gate to the corral and called the girls whilst I made the morning feeds up. Now what happened was fascinating to watch. B herded the babies up and they started to make their way over, but then as she got closer to the crowds I could see her struggling, wanting to come in, but very wary of the noise.

I called again and she milled about obviously worried about coming in towards all the fuss and shouting. Now I must point out at this stage Dee had already made her way right up to the fence line not 10 feet from the pitch and made the acquaintance of a couple of little girls watching their brothers play, what a cheeky monkey!
I went out to give Bally a hand, popped her headcollar on and she led in pretty well, tense and wary, but happy for the offer of leadership.

Once she had her face in her bucket of breakfast she forgot all about the crowd, so I gradually moved her bucket around so she was nearer the fence and the pitches. She had the odd start as we were behind the goal and the ball flew around a couple of times, but happily went back to her food.
When she'd finished I walked her around by the fence and I could see her growing in confidence as I kept completely calm & quiet. Now came the really important part..keeping her focus on me with all the distractions and asking for some work at the same time. So we tried a couple of circuits of semi lunging, me walking with her on a long lead asking for her attention with half halts and halts. Then I halted her a few feet away from the fence and did a couple of direct rein disengaging her quarters moves..all done really well by Little Miss B!

I was really pleased with how well she was doing so led her along the fence line and out into the main field. Then after a couple of circuits in walk on a 15m circle with her again nicely attentive I halted her and let her off the lad but stayed where I was and stroked and scratched her, telling her very effusively what a brilliantly good girly I thought she was!!!
So there we were 10 ft from the fence with hordes of screaming boys and yelling parents, B completely at liberty to beggar off and she stood happily and calmly with me having a scratch and watching what was going on...blummin FANTASTIC!

Funnily enough all we'd actually got planned for today was a small trip out in Bessie Horsebus as it was two months since Bally had even seen the box on her trip up to the field and on top of that we had an incredibly useful training session!

So this afternoon Gi brought the box over and I caught B, walked out the gate and across the lane to the lay-by to see how she'd load. Well considering the time lapse and the fact that she'd pretty much fallen down the ramp last time when she was spooked by a car as she unloaded I think she did brilliantly. Nice and calmly I gave small asks with minimal pressure on the rope - just enough to ask rather than demand a movement, then release and praise for each try. It worked a treat and 5 minutes later with only one slight pull back, but no reversing, Bally walked up the ramp and on the box.

We just took her for a 10 minute drive down through the village and circled back to the field. She had a minor heart attack over the branches scraping the side of the box - almost went into tap dancing full on paddy mode the first time, but as I remained completely calm, she relaxed a little more each time it happened till it only garnered the response of a slight twitch and eye roll in the direction of the noise.
Bally managed really well considering the fact we were on very small bendy up and down lanes, she still feels the need to move her feet to keep her balance, but it's done quietly and deliberately with no panic and she'll learn to balance better with time and practice.

She was very careful backing down the ramp, I could feel her tension and again just kept my own energy level very low and quiet to give her confidence. She stepped off nice and steadily and with no drama...couldn't ask for any more :-)

I have an update on Little Dee too, but that can wait until tomorrow :-)

Back to Basics

So, a little earlier than planned, but pleased to say that I've started gently working with Bally again.

Of course even during daily handling we are always learning (about manners and more importantly each other) but this is "work" with purpose and goals.

I've been reading an awful lot during the break and mulling things over - mainly about me, how I approach things, how the way I'm feeling, how I react and what I want from a session can make or break it. Generally I don't think I'm too far from where I want to be ....and more importantly Bally needs me to be - I think we have each other fairly well sussed now. But It's absolutely vital that I keep myself grounded, calm and clear in my vision every single session. And if I'm not then don't even start one. There is no race, no time limit and there is always another day.

For all her perceived bravado Bailarina is incredibly sensitive and in the new herd has a position of responsibility which doesn't always sit easy with her. It's an incredible feeling to realise that she looks to me to guide her - most humbling to have that trust and scary as hell to have the responsibility myself!

Anyway enough waffling about esoterics!

First lesson on Friday was just a re-introduction to her working tack. Bridle, rope halter or lunge cavesson a long line, in hand reins, pad and roller. All put on, played with and taken off without a hint of anxiousness. Settling with the bridle, cavesson, pad and roller I asked her on to a 12m circle around me at walk, being very mindful of keeping her attention, and keeping her from dropping her right shoulder and falling in (discovering my timing is pants in the process and needs sharpening up big time!!)

I popped in a couple of halt / walk transitions and asked for a gentle upwards transition to trot and back down after a couple of strides.
We had to work on the halt transition on the right rein as B appeared to have forgotten how to stop on a whistle (despite being foot perfect on her left rein lol!)

I wanted to move onto a very short close in-hand session, and started straight from a direct contact on the rein / bit as she was completely amenable to me asking for a small relax and flex directly (last year we finished with it being fingers on headcollar and bit)

She was super, steady in my hand with no head tossing. She stretched out and down when asked as a reward, Halted on the button, reinbacked as soon as I changed my weight and walked off smartly on command. We literally did two circuits of the corral with a circle on each rein and stopped as she'd been such a good girl!

Back to the barn and she stood (with only one attempt to wander) loose as I untacked her, so she remembers the ground tying...actually the fact that I do her feet and rug loose in the field already means she should have this task perfect!

I'm going to update a little later on today's sessions...both of them ;-)

It's great to be back!!