Thursday, June 30, 2011

June, Interrupted

After our splendid beginning of the month, June became rather unproductive on the Sofie front. Perhaps due to all the cantering and good work we did, Sofie wound up having a flare-up. She wasn't miserable or anything, but she was ouchy and it became clear that she needed some time off. So she had two weeks off, with just ground work, and improved somewhat. I rode again on Sunday, and she was really quite good. We mostly walked but we did some trotting and even a little bending work near the end. She paid attention very well despite a rousing game of horseshoes happening in the neighbor's yard (so random guys were wandering around, and occasionally there was a nice resounding CLANK and then an "Oh, SNAP!" or something to that effect). I figured she would be weird about it, but at least we'd be able to practice working with distractions. But she was pretty much unbothered by it. We finished up the ride working on bending both ways at a trot, with our nose actually NOT stuck waaay out, and she focused really well even when we rode right by the distracting yard. What a good girl.

She's still ouchy, so last ride we pretty much just walked. It was a windy, slightly weird day, but she was totally happy to walk around. We did some hills, she had energy in her walk, she was relaxed, and she even listened to my hands. For the most part she reached into the contact, so we had a nice elastic feel going. I did test her in the trot, both directions, but she most definitely did not want to trot and was very hesitant and slightly upset, so once she trotted a few steps I had her walk again, and went "Okay, we'll just walk for now, then." I know that was her communicating something, as there was no earthly reason for her to be going around perfectly happily and then not want to trot unless she was in some pain. So, if we need to, we'll just walk for now, since at least we can get something productive done at the walk, and get her exercised.

After that I did ride her on the road, and she was not terribly good but we managed. The wind, which had been NBD in the yard, was OMG all of a sudden. But we practiced being nervous and just going forward anyway, and not acting dangerously, and it worked out. Near the end, when I was about to turn her around, she suddenly noticed a terrifying real or imagined Something, and stopped and stared. Then she backed up, like "No, I cannot go near that real or imagined Something." So I was all grrrr, since I just wanted to turn around and now I had to get her over this before I could turn around. It was kind of a tense moment, so I had her step forward, and then I carefully turned her around, letting her know in no uncertain terms that she was not to take off (there's always that danger when a terrifying real or imagined Something is behind you). Fortunately she did not take off or do anything too stupid on the way home, although when we were about ten feet from the barn driveway she suddenly decided to be all OMG. So I kept her going across the driveway and slightly down the other side of the road, then stopped and dismounted with her right by the road. Then I ran up my stirrups and made her stand and NOT throw her head into my space or step towards me. When we had success we went back to the barn.

In other news, while our rides may not be super high octane right now, we are excelling in other areas of work. A boarder bought a biiiiig soccer ball for their horse to play with, and they left it at the barn for other people to use as well. I was interested to see what Sofie thought of it, and the only time she spooked at it was when she first saw it (I led her out of the barn, turned a corner, and there was the guy blowing it up. She jumped. Rather dramatically.). When we got our turn to play with it Sofie was mildly interested and nibbled on it a little, but she did not understand the concept of playing soccer. When I led her up to the ball she would deftly swerve it, like "Are you honestly TRYING to run me into this big-ass ball? Are you nuts?" The only way I could get her to kick it on was to hold her lead right by her halter and just walk her into it. So we weren't all that good at soccer, although it was fun to mess around with it.

But I got the bright idea to try some other stuff, basically to see what she would tolerate. So I dropped her lead on the ground, made her stay, and bounced the ball on the ground next to her. No reaction. I bounced the ball lightly off her side. Didn't care. So then I went "Hey, let's REALLY test this," and I lifted the ball up over my head. She kind of looked at me with slight nervousness and suspicion (probably thinking I was up to no good and/or losing my mind) and I set the ball on her back. Her head came up, and she was still looking at me strangely, but she did not move her feet. I rolled the ball back and forth and then let it roll off her rump, and she stood through all of that. So I did it on the other side, too, with similar success. Then the other day I had her stand, and I picked up the ball, climbed on the three-step mounting block, and did the same thing. I'm sure she thinks I'm nuts, but she obviously trusts me enough to go along with it. Which is all good.

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