11.03.14: Back to the Grind Stone

Finally! The weather is beginning to break and clear! The weekend was beautiful, but I didn't get a chance to do more than groom Storm for a while. With Jim and I together and some elbow grease, we managed to get some of the hair off of him. There was a gray scattered swath 30 feet across the hill from the breeze blowing away our efforts (the best way to groom when they are shedding). He wasn't really any cleaner, but at least there was somewhat less hair. Since we were limited on time, he didn't get worked, but at least he was cleaner.
I realized that with the schedule and weather he needed to get some work in before our next lesson the following weekend so Monday when I got home from work I headed out and collected him out of the pasture. I had his bridle out and the long reins, and got him set up and headed to the arena. The footing was comfortable now that the snow melted and the rains had dried off again. It took a bit of organizing to get him to set off into the reins, but he moved out once he got himself turned around in the correct direction. We started working to the right, which is the more challenging direction, and he settled in almost immediately to stretching and was mouthing and working from the beginning. We worked on our circle for a long time continually balancing and rebalancing. Slowly he became steadier and found some stability and as he did his mouth quieted down again. At one point I heard a bit of a thud, and looked around trying to sort out the source, and discovered that the boys up on the hill had tipped over their water trough. As we came around the circle, Storm raised his head, distracted by the commotion of the boys playing in whatever puddle was left, but I was able to click to him and ask him to keep walking on and he returned his focus right into the work again. The moment was fleeting, and he never really lost his concentration within the work. That was a good thing and a big improvement!
We finally switched directions after a while and worked towards the left. He was doing slightly better, but it was a little more of a challenge for me because to the left he falls into the circle rather than pulls out of the circle. Working to keep him balanced outward is more of a challenge than simply working to keep him steady on the inside. He finally settled down to where I wasn't needing to adjust the length of the outside rein constantly to keep him from falling inward constantly. We settled into the work, and as we worked his mouth became quieter.
I decided since he was in such a good frame of mind that I would experiment with some trot work. It took me a few tries of stepping up my own pace into a jog, and then asking him for a faster gait to get him to get organized and follow the cue. It is difficult to get the cues right and still maintain contact while jogging and trying to keep him in the correct position in front. After several tries, he maintained the trot and did a lot of experimenting with stretching and balancing himself. It is much more challenging to adjust the contact at the trot since everything happens faster. He falls in faster, he pulls out faster, and he's inclined to slow down when he really loses his balance. That isn't really a bad thing, but it means that it is more difficult to practice staying steady. You do get the benefit of practicing lots of transitions though! It finally got to the point where I could simply start jogging and he would pick up the trot after a few steps of getting organized. I was really happy to see him put in that kind of effort without any fuss at all.
We finally stopped when I got too tired to keep jogging and was actually sweaty in my layers. I headed back up to the top of the hill and let him graze for a while as I gave him another quick groom to try to loosen more hair. It is really a futile effort this time of year. I left more fuzz on the hill, and as I was getting ready to put him away, Marta arrived to feed for the evening, so I turned him around and put him into his stall. After some spontaneous spring cleaning/organizing of my tack trunk and got my things together and headed up to the house. I was just getting started with dinner preparations and Marta called me to say he wasn't eating his food. As I headed back to the barn to find out what was the matter with him, she called me back as I came around the corner to say that Holly had put the wormer in the feed, and forgotten that Storm doesn't like to eat his wormer. I called her to check in and she said that she remembered right as she squirted it in, so she just mixed it up at that point and hoped. He wouldn't even finish off the small handful he had left after I put a peppermint into his feed! There wasn't so much left that it was worrisome, and he certainly wasn't going to eat it one way or another, so Marta turned him out for the evening and I headed back up to the house.

Next Page: 11.03.19: A Study of Change
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