Midweek last week the cowboy trainers and I decided we should try to put together a Sunday afternoon trail ride since we haven’t gotten to ride together since our last hurrah in mid-October. After Frankenstorm, the holidays, hunting season, and now this wealth of poo-tastic weather none of us have done a great amount of riding. Trail riding is only safe on Sundays at this point in time. The weather changed for the worst after we made our Sunday plan, however, and we instead decided to go to the barn where one of the cowboys does his training.
Originally I was planning on riding Q, but then with the change in plans I pondered taking both horses to Cowboy’s to play and ride in the indoor. But then I realized I didn’t know which trailer D would want to take and if we took the gooseneck we’d only have room for two horses so I settled on taking Griffin. I knew he’d gain more from the experience than Q.
We ended up taking the stock trailer, so I could have taken both horses, and I pondered it briefly, but dismissed the idea because I knew it would be good to concentrate on Griffin for a day and having two local trainers there would be beneficial.
I’d been contemplating sending Griffin to the barn we went to play at for a month of training in April or May of next year. I worried that I couldn’t start him properly and that maybe it would be best to let Cowboy do it. Get a solid foundation that I could then take and tweak to my heart’s desire. However, after the day of play Cowboy told me that while he’d do it if I really wanted him to, he saw absolutely no reason why I should send Griffin to him. He and the other trainer both gave me a lot of praise for the work I’ve done with him. Another guy who was there was interested in buying Griffin! While I wouldn’t dream of selling him, I was flattered that someone else was interested.
Cowboy set up a series of poles to weave, a tarp with white poles and barrels to have to walk over/through, and at one point we even brought the dirtbike into the arena to see how the horses handled that (oh, how I wish I’d had Q as that would have spazzed her out and it would have been a far better learning experience). Griffin could have cared less about the growling, screaming dirtbike. Cowboy pulled it alongside both he and Oliver and ripped and roared the engine. It earned an ear flick and a deep sigh from both youngsters. Good boys!
I did a bit of lunging with Griffin in both directions. Had him respond to pressure from my body gestures and back up or come forward or move his hind end away accordingly. He walked and trotted over the tarp obstacle without a care in the world. I gave him a break for 15 minutes or so while I had some food and then I tacked him up with my English saddle and his bridle with the broken D-ring snaffle. I lunged him a little more and then mounted him. *gasp*
He stood steady as a rock. We flexed to both sides and then proceeded to follow D on Oliver (Griffin’s best mate in the field) around the arena. Over the tarp, weaving in and out through the poles, backing up, more flexing, more forward movement, and plenty of halts. He was much more eager to move off my leg than from cues with my hands. I liked this and hope he keeps it up. He didn’t switch his tail or pin his ears at all throughout the exercises. He did throw his head to try and rid the pressure from the bit when we worked on backing up, but it was nothing crazy or unexpected. I would have done the same were I him. He figured it out quickly and was backing like a champ by the end of the session. Good boy, Griffin.
I’m very thankful for all of the time I put in on the ground with him up to this point. I really think it helped to make a difference with his mindset toward work undersaddle. What we did was nothing exceptional, but it was a huge stepping stone for us. I look forward to a winter of more exercises like that at home once a week or so to build and mold his reactions to my cues.
Cowboy was really impressed with my work and complimented me a lot. He’s working with a colt Griffin’s age, too. That colt is much further along than Griffin, but I’m not in any rush. Cowboy looked at me with this little gleam in his eye at the end of the day while we were all sitting around and chatting and asked, “Can I lie your horse down?” “Sure,” I responded. “It might be crazy if he gets scared,” Cowboy warned. “I trust you,” I told him.
He took Griffin into the middle of the arena, had Griffin give to pressure when asked to lower his head, and then pulled one of his forelegs up with a lead and waited. Griffin stood for a moment, flipped the leg around to see if it would release. When it didn’t he bowed down on his forelegs. He alternated from the bow to standing position 6 or 7 times before lying down. We praised him and loved on him and then left him to rise on his own. I’ve wanted to try teaching Griffin to bow, but always worried I would do it wrong and freak us both out so I never tried it. I was glad to watch Cowboy do this exercise with Griffin.
Overall, a great day. I’m glad I chose to take Griffin. He got a lot out of the day. He was such a good boy, too, though I really didn’t expect anything less. He’s such an easy-going fella. Looking forward to more adventures in coming months!