Monday, August 23, 2010

An Entertaining Day

"Cast of Characters"
( These are pictures taken in previous training sessions in outside arena)
" Donnie"

Our day started out with the usual feed and turnouts, then whichever horses were being worked were readied for their lessons. We have been acclimating some of the more ‘special needs’ horses to the indoor by hand walking and lunging them a few times before they are ridden inside.  Donnie had the number one slot on the dance card today.  He’s still a little nervous about indoors since a German Shepherd attacked him in an indoor a few years ago (which also resulted in his first “girthy” bucking incident.)  As a result, he doesn’t care much for dogs or indoors, so making him feel secure in the indoor is a priority before eventually mounting up.

It was raining, but the noise was less than I thought it would be on the metal roof and we were pleasantly surprised that Donnie was doing so well. My daughter was lunging him and I was sitting on the mounting block.  Out of nowhere I noticed Grady and Blue, two of our nosier horses who had the day off because they were ridden yesterday; their two heads were perfectly framed side by side in the window as they watched Donnie work.  Grady called out to Donnie: “Whatcha doin’ Donnie, wanna come out and play?”  Donnie nickered to them, “I’m almost done here fellas, just let me finish this circle - be out in a minute.”  Of all the times not to have a camera... not that I could have taken a great picture anyway, I was laughing pretty hard.
Next up was Sami; he did very well even if he was a little nervous.  The resident pigeons flew in out the windows a few times distracting him, but he’s surprisingly sensible and all in all he had a good lesson.
Dusty is still on the disabled list.  I took her for a walk in the indoor yesterday and did a quick assessing lunge.  She’s still a tad off on the outside of the circle.  In the past Dusty has been ridden in an indoor only a handful of times, so she’s skeptical and very alert to say the least. I’ve been trying to familiarize her by hand walking and feeding treats so she thinks indoors are fun – kind of like going into a giant walk-in treat dispenser.  Her main squeeze, Nate, was along for his orientation and to keep her company. They have been missing each other so we thought some quality time together would be nice for both of them.

We have 4ft. doors that complete the wall on the lower half of the arena that can be placed over the large opening on the end, but since this is where we come in with vehicles, etc. we’ve been leaving it open.  I also thought it might be nice psychologically for nervous horses to leave it open so they wouldn’t feel too claustrophobic while getting used to being inside; this way they’d always feel like they had an escape route.  But we thought it might be nice for Dusty and Nate to explore on their own, so we decided to block the openings and turn them loose.  After putting a board across the smaller man-door entrance and stringing a thick, white lunge line across the huge doorway at the end, we let them loose to play with each other.  Some trotting side by side and head tossing ensued and they were having fun cavorting and snorting.  At this point Nate decided a nice canter was in order and made a beeline from one end of the arena towards the front entrance where we were watching their antics.  We were standing in front of the lunge line to reinforce the boundary a bit when Nate came bounding toward us.  Sure he would spin out at the last minute, my daughter and I simultaneously raised our arms to turn him and moved to either side of the entrance to avoid the big last minute turn and possible buck we were expecting from him.

But this is Nate we’re dealing with here.  He never does what you’d expect a normal horse to do.  Instead, he kept right on going and we became the human standards for what has now been dubbed “the lunge jump.”  That’s right, all 17’2 hands of goofy Dutch Warmblood jumped over the lunge line, knees snapped up by his ears, in an amazingly effortless jump and proceeded to take a galloping tour around the outside of the arena.  The top of the wall where the lunge was attached is 4ft, and the jump took him onto a bluestone road for a stride then up a steep bank to the top of the hill.  He never missed a beat.

Color us surprised!  Nate has been semi-retired and hasn’t jumped for about 5 years now - and fully retired for the last 6 months - because he has so many mysterious health issues my daughter didn’t want to add stress by working him.  She’s now rethinking this decision after his dazzling jumping display.  This isn’t the first time we’ve caught him in the act of jumping random things for his own entertainment, even in his retirement.  So who knows, maybe he’s bored and a little work might do him some good.  If he can happily canter the length of the indoor, casually step over a 4’ longe line and canter up a near vertical bank in one stride, maybe he can manage a little walking around the field under tack...?
Dusty, the more sensible of the two, followed him up to a point, and then she stopped, ears forward looking out the doors and windows.  Finally, I think she actually shrugged her shoulders: “Stupid boys; they sure know how to ruin a good time.”

Until next time

Quote for Today
A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient horse walks in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you.

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