Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Temper Tantrum (Ginger pt 2)

Ginger and I worked a couple more times this past week.  Wednesday was our second time up.  She is a bit more attentive walking on a lead rope, and with mounting and dismounting now, but still not where she needs to be.  Took her outside the arena for the first time.  She did fairly well, but her first reaction to anything she doesn't like is to sit back and spin away.  She only did it twice.  First, at the spot where she got chased through the fence.  That could also be because that is where the barnyard opens up to the house and garage area.  She's familiar with it, but there are a couple of blind corners there that sometimes spook other new horses.  We rode the perimeter trail around the farm.  A good portion of it parallels the public road, with a fringe of trees between.  I was hoping a truck or motorcycle would come by so I could get a feel for what she might do when I take her onto the road.  I had no such luck, so we took a couple of laps around the farm at a nice calm walk.  Just for fun, we crossed the road at the top of the driveway.  She stood quietly on the other side while we watched a couple of cars buzz by.  We crossed back to head down the driveway to the farm, when she started spinning again.  This one was more of a refusal than a spook.  She wanted to head down the road instead of going home.  A group of trail riders had saddled up and left while we were getting ready.  I'm fairly certain that she knows this is the route they take whenever any horses leave the farm.  As much as she wanted to go with them, she is not yet ready for the real world.  I spun her around in both directions, and pushed her into a trot to get her going in the right direction. 

On Friday we worked on ground manners, mounting and dismounting for a good while.  Ginger still hasn't figured it out, but I can see she is trying.  It's very much like teaching an active kindergartner that she has to raise her hand, wait to be called on THEN speak.  Repetition, repetition, repetition, with unwavering consistency. 

From the barnyard, we moved out to the perimeter trail again.  The obstacles inside the arena no longer bother her.  We met a few things that gave her a small start.  The clacking of the pedals on a golf cart, a cat darting across the trail, and a cyclist on the road.  Nothing to do for unexpected things like that but to always stay calm and balanced, before, during, and after they happen.  The main event of the day was a reminder to me that you should never plan your day around a horse's behavior.  We made two loops around the farm at various gaits, then I decided to call it a day.  Fortunately, I had no other pressing commitments that afternoon. 

When going back to the barn, I habitually ride back and forth past the driveway entrance, sometimes four or five times.  This is to reinforce that we don't just duck down the driveway whenever we pass it.  On our first pass at the top of the drive, Ginger decided that she was going home NOW.  And she let me know it with her patented left hand spin.  I kept her spinning, and came out of it aimed in the direction I wanted to go.  Ginger countered by spinning back toward the driveway.  I spun her several times in both directions.  By the time we were done dancing, we were well inside the driveway entrance.  I had her facing out, and cued her to walk forward.  She threw it in reverse and backed down the driveway as fast and straight as she walks forward.  I turned her around, and backed her in the opposite direction.  She knew what was going on, and didn't go as fast as before, though she did stay straight.  Back at the top of the drive, I turned her completely around a couple of times, left and right, just for general purposes.  Then I pushed her back onto the perimeter trail.  She fought that briefly, but a light tap of the reins on my boot top convinced her that this round was over.  I pushed her several yards past the point where she relented, then turned around to try again. 

When we reached the driveway again, Ginger renewed the battle.  She wasn't nearly as enthusiastic this time.  It only took a couple of turns in both directions to convince her to move past the drive.  Instead of turning back, we continued all the way around.  About halfway around, Ginger figured out what was going on, and gave a halfhearted protest.  Several tight turns in both directions convinced her to continue on.  As we approached the driveway again, I began looking for a way to end this fight on a positive note.  I stopped her at the driveway without turning into it.  Instead, we turned to the road, and stopped at the edge.  We paused there a while, then I turned her around and we walked calmly back to the barn. 

If I had allowed Ginger to win this contest of wills, I, or someone else, would have had twice the problem next time around.  We'll see how much of this she remembers next time up.

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