Sunday, February 03, 2008

Out of the Comfort Zone

On a Sunny Sunday

Another beautiful day drew me out in the afternoon to the allure of the woods. I decided I'd ride whichever horse came to me first, first and go from there.

To my surprise, Toby headed right over to me when I went out to the pasture. He definitely wanted the treats I had in my pocket, but still he seemed pretty content to let me put the rope around his neck and lead him into the barn to be saddled. We had a nice ride to the middle distance trail and to my surprise, Toby chose an even longer route home, taking the path to the back lake and then up along the ridge back towards home. I guess he liked the weather too and wanted to stay out a little longer himself.

I saddled Tucker next and did a very short school in the arena. He was very willing, forward, and didn't offer any protests at all. I should have read his eagerness a little better, but I took the plunge and headed out into the woods anyhow, figuring I'd attempt the middle trail with him too. This is the next trail into the woods, about 100 yards further along the edge of the field from his "comfort zone," trail--the one we do virtually every time we go out.

It took Tuck about ten stride before he realized we'd passed "his" trail. He gave a little squeal and a little plunging buck of excitement and I gave him a sharp correction with both rein and voice and he settled back down to his very energetic walk. He was fine going into the woods, and a good boy until, up ahead, he spied a mud puddle!! Wow! Water right there in the middle of the trail! Water! Better stop. Better try to run away! Oops, Mom won't let me do that! OK, OK, she's taking me to the left of it. Boing! I think I'll buck again just to show her. OK, OK, just one little buck. After all, it is kind of exciting!

Fortunately, that was it. He did try to jog off a few times, but I was too concerned that the footing had some slippery spots--I'd ridden the same track with Toby--so I "purred" him back to a walk and we made our way happily home.

That left Chance. I set up a little "round pen" in the far end of the ring by using one corral panel, some barrels with poles on top and some of my plastic blox with poles across them forming the illusion of a fence.

What a difference that made! With the barrier on the once open side of the circle, Chance gave up all thought about pulling away and began working like a champion on the right rein. I did have to laugh a little as he was very forward at first and, when the reins checked his exuberance, he actually played little bronco. It was the first time I'd ever seen him buck and, compared to Tucker, it really wasn't too impressive. No twists or flying hind end. He simply did the head down, still legged bounces and then went on.

Best part of it all was that he willingly cantered on the right lead several times without any issue. So, after I praised him mightily I set him on the left rein, got some really nice work and then, for a finish, reversed him again, and got a circle or two of even better, softer right lead canter.

If I had a place to set up a round pen, it would be great as this seemed to be a perfect solution to his resistance. Perhaps, if I need it, when the weather warms up and things dry out, I can figure out how to use part of my very soggy paddock in front of the barn to set something up with my corral panels. That's what I got them for in the first place, but since then they have replaced broken fencing and are being used to make the little pen for Tucker's stall.

Meantime, the poles and barrels did the trick, so if I keep using them, and the training continues to go really well, we'll have solved the problems and Chance will actually be trained!

So, Tucker went out of his comfort zone and succeeded, and Chance found a comfort zone he can work in.

Another good day at Follywoods!


  1. really good about tucker going out! and well done sitting it, you have said you'd some concerns.... so now you'll be able to take him that way again... now, tell him to tell molly that it doesn't hurt a bit...

  2. Well that all sounds very positive!


  3. Thats really got me laughing about Tuck and his 'comfort zone' rides,Polo always goes though a faze of this when we've had to moved yards,usually lasts anywhere between 12/18months!;0
    Certain rides are fine but other's freaked him out and he spent the whole time spooking,snorting and worrying..makes me realise how far he's come,although it takes awhile:))

    Sounds like you had a great day!