Another Nice Day
It was a little chilly today, enough for my knees to feel it, so I didn't go out to the barn until late afternoon.
I decided I'd lunge Tucker and Chance, just to get them moving with a little controlled exercise. I lunge them in a halter for basic exercise. If I intend to really work them, I'll put on the long lines and use them to lunge. I'm not keen on side reins, mostly because they are fixed and I cannot change the contact while I am working the horse. If I am just going to use lungeing for exercise, I'd rather the horse have his head without being restricted by rein contact.
Besides, it's easier that way. I've pretty much taught all my horses to be responsive and reliable--barring a few exciting explosions now and then--in the halter and part of the fun is getting them to change gait with just a simple verbal command instead of all kinds of pulling or pushing.
I lunged Tucker first. He started off a bit lazy, but warmed up quickly and soon offered a relaxed, forward trot with his head stretching way down to the ground. I guess it must feel good for him to stretch like that, because he does seem to like it. His first canter depart was prompt on one simple command to "canter," but it took a few chirps along with one or two commands to "trot" when I wanted the downward. Not exactly disobedient, but it's almost as if once he starts cantering he kind of "gets into a zone," and just keeps going. We practiced a few transitions and in short order, he was responding with a change of gait from one simple command. Fun stuff, and it was the same on both reins.
I set up a small jump--about 2 feet--along the rail and set him towards it. He kept a pretty steady pace into in the first few times and jumped nicely. Then he got a little silly, rushed the approach, took off from a very long spot and hit the rail with his hind leg, sending the Blox atilt. Fortunately, he didn't try to run off after that, so I brought him back down to a quiet walk, reset the jump and from then on, his approaches and jumps were far more careful and controlled.--He controlled, them, not me.
When we finished, I lavished praise on him for a job well done and did some in hand leading work. Basically, his job is to stop when I stop, back a step and halt. Then when I move off again, he's to walk quietly with me at whatever pace I choose. He also has to back up and move over in response to either a verbal command or just a hand signal. Once again, he was "practically perfect in every way" with those exercises.
I did all the same exercises with Chance. He did look just a little "short" on his right hind leg when we started off, but as he warmed up his stride was pretty even. I think it's just a matter of getting him fit if something is bothering him in his stifle.
Chance is also pretty responsive on the lunge as well. Not quite as sharp to respond as Tucker, but just fine. The jumping, though, is quite interesting. He just doesn't pick up any impulsion on the approach, so that, unless I really get after him to move out, he sort of lunges over the fence, lands at a near standstill on the other side and then kind of trots off. It's not a lack of talent, just a too laid back effort and what seems to be a complete misunderstanding of just what it takes to really "jump." But, to his credit, by the fifth time over, with my chasing him into a forward canter, he made some nice efforts and we called it a day.
I did some in hand work with him, realizing that I really haven't taught him a whole lot about the "leading rules." So I did the halt/back exercise a few times, and then had him circle around me, moving away from my hand. We finished with the back in hand as well and he was really good about it. Again, his responses are not as sharp as Tucker's but he does try hard and seems to like the attention.
I did not do anything with Toby. He is retired, after all, but I am hoping that as he watches the other Boys work that he may actually want to do something too. I told him that if I hold up the halter and walks his head into it, I'll know it's time. He just has to let me know.
I truly enjoy working my horses in hand. Much of what I do on the ground carries over into my riding, and the basic handling skills are so important.
Reminds me...I need to work Chance on trailer loading when I get the opportunity. Trouble is, to be safe, I need to hook up to the truck. He loads all right with food, but my horses really need to be "point and load" without any kind of reward at the end. Sometimes you just don't have a bribe at hand.
We'll get to it. And I'm sure he'll be just fine. He's a good boy.