Saturday, December 20, 2008
Bar's Workout routine
Almost every morning, I've been getting to the barn early to get Bar into the round pen and work with him. He still seems to look forward to it, and his attitude has indeed improved with the extra exercise and attention he's getting.
If I have time, I work both horses a little bit, but my primary focus right now is on Bar. Lena isn't entirely sure how she feels about that, but since she's still getting carrots and massages every morning, she's willing to ride it out to see if it helps get us back on the trail soon.
Our routine is pretty simple. He and I walk down to the arena, me insisting that he listen and not do too much dancing on the way there. I give him a few minutes to himself in the round pen to buck and roll and be a horse while I stand outside and watch him squeal and wheel and change direction as often as he likes before I go in and give him direction I expect him to follow.
Karen suggested letting him warm up at the lope/canter first, because it's an easier gait, then work on his trot, so that's what we've been doing. I'm also working on getting him to stay with me, rather than slip into his "zone" of race-breathing. I do a lot of talking to him, keeping my own energy calm and focused on him, praising him when I can tell he's paying attention to me.
We always end the same way, with some bending and stretching and simple ground exercises to work on his focus and manners. The mornings he's distracted, I'll put the lead rope back on him, walk him around me, stop him and wait for him to swing his hip away from me, then back him up a few steps. If he does that well, I'll do it again off the lead rope, getting him to move his hip away from me and back up without touching him at all. The mornings he's more focused, we can start without the lead rope, but my goal is always set him up to succeed, and some mornings he needs a little more input from me than others to get there.
The very last thing I ask him to do is follow me with the lead rope looped over his neck instead of in my hand. He has to stay at my shoulder while I wander all over the round pen, turning one way then the other, then he has to stop when I do and back up a step or two without me touching him or the lead rope.
The other morning, Peter said two things to me. One, my horses have it way too good, that he'd never come out every morning the way I do. Two, he'd probably have moved onto an easier horse than Bar by now, but that's because he's lazy. I took both of those things as compliments of a sort, though he may not have meant them as such.
My horse will never be mild-mannered and he will always be prone to dancing, but he and I are working things out in our own way, on our own time line. I've had people tell me to feed him less or maybe let him be a little sore to make him more controllable, but I'd really rather have a healthy horse and learn how to work with him, even if it takes me longer that way.