09.05.26: Three Days of Storms

My sessions with Storm were good, though the weekend took a bumpy start. Thankfully it was a long weekend. Jim McDonald was having his trailer loading clinic, but unfortunately it was only one of the women from the barn that had signed up. So she moved her trailer over into the field and we got the horses out. Jim had a foam mattress that he brought out to start a little bit of practice with in order to build confidence with new things and acclimate the horses to walking on different textures and things. Storm was good, only shying at the mattress a little bit. I gave him a minute to explore and he was fine with the whole concept, and proceeded to poop right on the mattress the first time he walked across. We flipped it over to continue working...

After Jeanie had a chance to work with her horse across the mattress for a bit, we headed out to the field to begin working with the actual trailer. Both horses were good heading out there, and I started with Storm with the trailer. It took him a little bit to get used to it, but he quickly built his confidence and began stepping on it and exploring the inside. Jeane and I took turns with our horses giving each of them a break after they made a small breakthrough. The pattern worked well, and soon Storm began to go most of the way into the trailer.

Down in the lower part of the field there was an SCA group having a weekend camp out and as we were working a man came over and let us know that they would be starting an archery event, and there would be a group of people firing arrows at a target that was about 100 yards behind where we were working. He explained that the group would be in a rough line, and start firing arrows from very far back, and the line would move forward after each volley. We asked him a few questions, and thanked him for being kind enough to inform us of their activities.

We continued our practice keeping an eye on the lower field and their activities. The horses were ok at first, as most of the people were down where they couldn't be seen, and the firing of arrows did not bother them. As the lines advanced though the horses began to have more problems. The trailer was facing directly away from that area, so the horses kept going sideways on the ramp. We managed to keep progressing for a little while, but eventually the horses were getting pretty insistent about not wanting to go into the trailer anymore. I took Storm back over to the trailer, and asked him to go in again, and then was backing him up, and he got a bit upset, and in trying to ask him to snap out of it, I managed to lose the rope, and he kept going backwards. When he realized there was no resistance, he took off and headed back down towards the pasture by the end of the barn, and then shot down the edge of the fence line. When he hit the bottom of the hill he suddenly realized he really didn't want to be down there anymore, and hit the brakes really hard. He did a beautiful sliding stop in the big mud puddle at the bottom of the hill, and then whirled around and headed back up. He brought the group of horses that were in that pasture with him, and they met at the top of the hill over the fence. It was part of Storm's herd anyway, they were in a different pasture because they are off the grass. I attempted to get closer to him while he was busy with the horses, but he moved off again. I was closer to the barn now, and he made a move to go back up towards the field, but decided against that. He came close to Mike who had come down to help me, but he didn't want to go with him either. He swung back around again and decided that the barn was the best place, and headed right in the door. He got in and looked a bit confused like he couldn't quite figure out why he had come in in the first place.
I headed back out to the field with him again, and what I didn't realize was that because Storm had shot off, Jeanie's horse Winston was freaking out on the far side of the trailer. As we came around the back side, Storm started to get upset again, and pulled the hopping/cantering/sideways/backwards trick, and I kept up with him pretty well for the first little bit, but then he swung around and I wasn't able to keep up with him anymore, and he shot off again. This time he ran across the back of the barn and stopped on the far side by the other pasture. Jim was coming out of the house and headed down that way to help intercept him, and by the time I got there, they had him again.
I took him right away down to the round pen and started the exercises that Kirsten had given us to work on. It took him a long time to finally calm down and relax, and by the time he did he was drenched in sweat. It was running down his hooves into the sand and dripping off his belly.
I took him up and pulled out the hose and rinsed him down really well. After slicking off the excess water, I walked him down to the arena to let him roll in the sand. He enjoyed himself, and then I took him back up to the pasture and turned him out again.

Sunday, I started out the way that I should have on Saturday, with the round pen work. I was pleased when I went to catch him, and he came to me from the gate between the two joining pastures. Whatever happened Saturday could not have been too terrible. He was doing very well staying relaxed at the walk, and then was fairly steady at the trot. After we worked for a while, he suddenly tossed his head and spun around and took off in the other direction. He ran and ran for a while, and I allowed him to do whatever he needed to do and slowly he worked his way down again and finally found relaxation again. I allowed him to sort himself out and he came back down, and I began to ask him again for faster speeds again, and he was able to step up the gaits without getting so emotional.

He was pretty sweaty again, and I allowed him to walk out for a while before I took him into the arena and put on his bridle to begin doing work with the long reins. I set up the ground poles and began to work in circles making sure that he kept moving out and was not getting behind the bit to that I could help maintain his straightness. He stayed calm and did very well staying with the bit and not wiggling out of it.

I finished up and hosed him off again, and brought him back down for his rolling ritual.

Monday was happily a holiday and so brought another day of the same, this time I added the saddle to the equation for him to carry the weight. This time he was able to maintain his calm for longer. He only spooked once, and never really lost it, and I was able to get several good transitions into the canter towards the end with him maintaining the relaxation.

I brought him into the arena for some more long rein work with the saddle on, and he did well, though he seemed to be getting tired towards the end and I was having trouble getting him moving effectively. We worked for a while in both directions before calling it quits for the day. I was pleased with the way that he had improved over the course of the weekend, knowing that I would not be likely to get much work in with him before Kirsten came back at the end of the week.
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09.06.01: The Bigger Picture