As satisfied as I was with Arthur, Erica and myself previously, this weekend was a bad one for Arthur and myself. Oddly enough it started with warmer (70 degree +) and our wind that won't go away. Nothing bad, but apparently enough that all the horses were a bit "up."
Arthur was a bit "off."
In Arthur terms, this means everything is out to get him. Saturday started with him being tied to his tree. I moved my arm and he reared and pulled back so we began desensitizing to waving things, running things, scary things that a human can do (bunny hopping!), and anything that I could do with myself and a rope. He ended the session standing still but not as relaxed as I would like. We tacked him up an hour or so later and let him stand still. When it was his turn, I worked on his groundwork and he did decent for him. I don't like his slight movements but he is fully relaxed while it is happening so I feel we're dealing with him anticipating but not thinking things through. So basically this was a "break the trust, rebuild the trust" sort of day.
Sunday started out great. Well, until Katy decided to rear up... and over while being groomed. (Seriously what was WITH this weekend!). Naturally Arthur thought everyone was dying and he too reared up and back. Both horses broke their lead ropes and so had to be re caught. Awesomesauce.
Once more tied up (Arthur in Katy's spot and she in his this time for her sake), we got to work. Arthur was last to go and was a rock star all day despite the start. He was really laid back (almost to the point of not paying attention... sigh) and did great when I did his groundwork. We've been adding in a jump where he goes next to it, around it, I stand on it, anything I can think of. Since I suck at working him constructively from a fence, I worked him from an 18" cross rail. He ended up straddling it while I rubbed him down from "above" and he was relaxed and engaged about it all. I decided to pop Erica on him and try for a boring repeat of last time.
The mounting block was again an issue but he worked through it with me simply standing on his offside. Erica systematically worked through getting on him and he was aware but good for it. Until he decided that this was boring and wanted to eat grass. UGH! I kept reminding him of his "job" and he'd go Oh, Right! and pay attention again. I made sure he was aware when she tried to get on and his head raised somewhat when she finally sat down and fixed her stirrup on the offside. His head went right back down though and all was well. I moved out in front of him and then... it happened.
A slow motion oh crap sort of thing.
First steps were fine, then he was less fine, then fine, then NOT FINE. Since he's trusting me so much, I had 16.3h of scared baby traumatized horse coming at me while I tried to protect my rider. Erica was unbalanced away from me and with Arthur turning towards me I was out of options. She flew off, landing on her shoulder/neck but was moving immediately. Arthur flexed to a halt and immediately began relaxing. Erica was "fine" and got up quickly. We were both puzzled and went through the pre flight checklist. Naturally I had a dog training client show up right about that time, so I handed him to Erica to being checking out his issues.
After my training session, Erica had returned and simply said "I had spurs on." While relieved that there was a "reason" I was worried about my rider, frustrated about the idea that I had another thing to add to my million issues list (not that it wasn't on there already), frustrated that I let this happen (not that I had a ton of control but I could have done more groundwork or something), and grumpy about the future with Arthur. Erica was fine though and Arthur was readily back to dopey relaxed baby horse so I got over it and decided that we have to work some more.
Things on my to do list:
Overall, Arthur has been doing well with his training. I can work him through the basic ground work stuff and he's willing and eager to work. There are a few things that can be more perfect but as a perfectionist I could be dwelling on those for a long time. Basically, how good is good? When is enough enough?
We've progressed with leaving him tied while we work the other horses and he does great with that consistently. I started grooming him this weekend while tied and he enjoyed it. He's really starting to be a horse now and its pretty cute but in true gelding/young/clueless horse manner that means he's "Getting into trouble" with mouthing, nuzzling, etc so we're working on showing him the boundaries on that. He's catching on well though without startling or resentment.
After an unremarkable set of weeks and a lot of planning and freaking out (on my part), I've decided that it was time to increase his training. My rider, Erica, has volunteered to ride him and while I'm not comfortable with that at this as a go get 'em method, I rationalized that having her on him while I did groundwork would be a nice bridge and that he was ready for that.
I worked him in her saddle and worked up to her mounting. Naturally I spent a lot of time on mounting and addressing any small glitches but he seemed quite good about the whole thing. She mounted uneventfully and I moved him out on lead. My nice calm Arthur was there and ready to work. He worked through walk/trot on the lunge line easily and listened as well as he does without a rider. Erica raising her hand was a little cause for concern, but by lowering and raising it until he was fine with it solved that and she was able to ride with an outstretched arm in short order.
After 10 minutes or so he was plenty relaxed so we started walking again and I let Erica flex and ask for some leg cues. Both of which he responded readily and was a rockstar. We worked on her maneuvering him near and away from me and he had little issue. The biggest problem was me near his haunches where he wanted to disengage and move away but quickly figured out when the focus was on Erica.
I'm not going to breath a sigh of relief and proclaim him fixed, but its a new step and that's rewarding. Now we just need to repeat it 1000 more time successfully. Baby steps, very small baby steps. I'm also ready for some backsliding as we get to better weather/daylight and I can work him more.
For such an epic day, this will be a relatively short post :P
I'd been dying to get a lesson in out at Pine Hill for well over a month but weather and schedules were not working. My desire to get out and jump things over rode my "need" to be escorted around by someone. Erica and I loaded the mares up for a fun schooling day at Pine Hill.
The objectives were pretty easy: expose them to the varying types of cross country obstacles. These were jumping flat, jumping a drop, jumping a bank, and then... just jumping. I was hoping to loosely jump anything beginner novice or lower as we felt it fit. It had been raining so we had to check the footing for everything but that allowed for plenty of rest time.
We jumped banks, drops, roll tops, boxes, benches, ditches, logs, logs on an incline, stadium jumps (including our first one stride in and out and oxer wooo) plus we hit the dressage ring for a "fake" test run to let the mares see an arena. Three hours later we felt tired but like rock stars.
It was a great day of baby jumps!