It has been far too long since I have been able to find the time to sit down and write a new blog! Last weekend I completed scuba diving training, although I still need to do four open water dives to get my Open Water certification. In the middle of August, I attended a four-day veterinary conference.
Over Labor Day weekend, my boyfriend and I loaded up the dogs and the horses and hauled everyone to the lake house for a long weekend. After the education he received in Colorado, Finn was much more willing to enter the water at Pomme de Terre Lake than he was when I wrote about it in “Does Your Horse Respect You? Part 5”
The dreaded stinging nettles
On the way home from the lake house on Labor Day, we stopped for a ride in Collins, Missouri at Eagle Ranch. Not only did we bring home two tired horses (we rode about 22 miles over the long weekend), but we also brought home the dreaded scratches, caused by the stinging nettle plant. Oh, how I hate that affliction. My poor gray gelding is apparently especially sensitive to it, and we are still dealing with painful nasty legs.
Finn got it to a much lesser degree and his legs did not swell as Kadeen’s did. I am determined that going forward, I will always wash or spray or somehow disinfect and/or treat all legs after riding in any area that might have stinging nettles, even if I don’t see them. Around here it is a fall problem (although the linked article above says spring and summer?) However, I wasn’t thinking “it’s the fall season” when I was riding on a hot day in early September.
Time in the roundpen
As I blogged about earlier this summer, I have been on a journey with “the Finnster” to gain his trust and respect. Part of the journey has included round pen work. While I begrudgingly saw the value in groundwork, I can’t say I was ever very motivated to do it. It seemed boring and tedious to me. I’d much rather be ON my horse! Nevertheless, after an unpleasant ride or two in the spring, I realized I needed to return to the basics with Finn. I wrote about Finn’s first few roundpen lessons in my blog series, Does Your Horse Respect You? (Parts Three and Four.)
While I was in Colorado in early August, I met a new friend who is an accomplished horsewoman. She watched Finn as he struggled with the boggy areas and the trail obstacles. She observed the frustration and separation anxiety he exhibited when he didn’t get to return to his pen and most of the other horses did. (Read about our all-too-exciting Colorado adventures here.) She commented that she loved roundpen work, and she especially liked doing it “at liberty”. When I had worked Finn in the round pen earlier this summer, I did so at the end of a lunge line. I decided I would return home and try liberty lunging myself.
Come hither, or not!
A few days ago was the first chance I have had to put my plan into action. It was a two-hour session. He cantered from ten to noon on a reasonably warm day. He was dripping in sweat. What I expected was that he would walk, trot and canter on demand, and STOP on demand. I was, and am, 100% sure he knew what I was asking. The last, and maybe the most important, thing that I wanted him to do was to walk up to me when I wiggled my hand with the “come hither” sign. We had worked on it many times before.
As he went round and round, all I had to do was stand in the middle and hold the lunge whip! SO much easier than dealing with the rope. And if (and when) he didn’t do as I asked, I’d just put pressure on him with the whip and move him faster. If I asked for a walk and didn’t get it in a reasonable period of time (a few seconds) then I would drive him harder. More than once he would finally stop when I asked for it (he was definitely tired by this point) and he would start to walk towards me, but stop halfway. Just like earlier this summer, he was quite good at doing part of what I wanted, but still trying to do some of it his way. If he didn’t come all the way up to me, out he went again. At the end of two hours, I looked pretty good to him and we finally ended our session.
This morning was Round Two. We were done in thirty minutes! He did have to do some of his “I’m going to do it my way” antics. However, in relatively short order he was ready to comply. I find it so much more fun to do it this way. It is so easy to see if my horse is willing to comply or not. He was happy to walk all the way up to me. We practiced having him follow me around the round pen for a few minutes. After our sessions, I tie him to the Patience Pole for a little while to contemplate his lesson. We are going to continue to polish these basic skills. When he is dependable on those, I will start “sacking him out” with various objects while he is standing at liberty. That will be a very clear view of his willingness to comply. We have had many battles over rattling objects and weird things being rubbed on his body.
I must say he has made great progress this summer. Next summer he will have a 7-year-old brain, one step closer to a mature mount. His everyday behavior still screams “youngster!” Arabs are notoriously slow to mentally mature. I do remember Kadeen at that age, and I marvel on a daily basis how much difference nearly a decade makes.
Things will go wrong!
After just completing my scuba training, I was constantly reminded that things can go wrong. The number one thing that was repeatedly stressed was to always be aware of how much air is left in your tank! That is a variable over which the diver has control. But in scuba diving, as in horseback riding, there are certainly unforeseen things that can happen.
Recreational scuba diving always demands diving with a buddy. Sometimes my horse IS my only buddy. It is easy to convince ourselves that the odds of something bad happening to us are slim, but what if you are the statistic? Ride safely and give yourself every opportunity to get the emergency treatment you need. Equip your equine buddy with the information needed to ensure that he is reunited with you! As you ride and camp this fall, consider braiding one of these into the mane of your horse in case you and he became separated.
ID MyHorse Emergency Medical & Identification Tags make excellent Christmas gifts. Give the gift of safety to the ones you love. Happy Trails!