Kai has officially been at the local boarding facility for 1 week. She kicked things off to a wonderful start by refusing to load for my husband, and subsequently missing her farrier appointment last Monday evening as a result. I had to hold other horses at the arena for the farrier, otherwise I would have been the one loading her. She’s troublesome in this area, because sometimes she refuses to load so I make a point of practicing, and she will walk right in… I think it stems from her desire to randomly plant her feet and refuse to move until you ‘drive’ her forward again; something she’s done since I got her. Evidently, it’s something I need to work on, and train my husband on a little more. I will also be buying a new lunge whip strictly for the trailer, to make things easier to drive from behind while being ‘in’ the trailer.. So it’s only Day 1 and we’ve already solidified she is an independent woman who don’t need no man (literally). Great.
When my grumpy husband finally arrived with Kai, the farrier had already left. Luckily I had a second appointment booked for the 10th, so we will get her done then. Regardless, I still took the time to walk her around the arena and lunge her a little. As usual, things were really scary. I will admit, it’s a fairly scary indoor, and there was multiple horses in the arena. On top of it all, it was barrel night so she kind of got thrown into the middle of people running patterns and she’s a race horse… thundering hooves gets her going. She was fairly well behaved, only spun around a few times and mostly only when people came galloping up behind her. Mostly she was concerned about the stripping chute for the roping steers, and looking forward into the rest of the week, it’s still highly concerning and the ideal place for monsters to dwell.
Day 2 was another lunge day, and was fairly uneventful. She’s really struggling with the deep footing, but the arena was quiet and I took the liberty to turn her loose. The very first thing I noticed, was she seemed confused. She stood at the gate and weaved, and would not venture very far away from me. Her insecurity was showing, so while I intended to eat my sandwich while she ran and bucked and rolled and played, it was apparent she needed me. Luckily I’m pretty versatile, so I took my sandwich in the arena and encouraged her to move around more with the use of a lunge whip. She used ¾ of the arena and went for a little gallop under my encouragement, but it seemed more forced than at her own free will. Once I finished my sandwich, I allowed her to join up and I took her out to brush her and prepare her for lunging.
I still hadn’t taken any of my tack or anything to the barn, so I just lunged her in a halter. Overall, she was well behaved. I used the empty facility to my advantage, and lunged her all around the arena, working through some ‘omagerd im gonna die’ moments and establishing that when she is calm, the pressure is taken off (IE I move her away from the scary thing). It was also a good time to remind her that moving into my space when she’s worried isn’t an option. It’s something I am continually working on with her, but to do it on a lunge line is also a good way to change it up. Naturally, it forces the ‘MUST GO FAST AND RUN AWAY’ response when she feels she cant’ shy into my space, so we’re working on that fine line and building her confidence.
Day 3 I had finally brought my tack into the arena. It was Roping night, which meant the steers were just outside the arena on the other side of the stripping chute (which is the scariest corner of the entire arena apparently), and it was about to get really busy. I get off work at 3:30 and work on the Campus where the indoor is located, so my plan was to get in early and be done before it got too busy.. baby brain and all that. I started with lunging her fully tacked and decided to play with the patients at the mounting block today. I didn’t really have the intention of getting on, I wanted to focus on this module today. I’ve worked incessantly on it at home, but this was a new environment and I was curious if she would retain her training in this situation. While I wouldn’t give her a 10/10 as we did need some discussions, for the most part she was pretty good. I decided we had come this far, I was going to risk throwing it all out the window and getting on. She stood well, and walked off with a little more prompting than I would have liked, but it was forward movement. Keeping in mind, the last time I rode her was at home and she wanted to kill me due to somehow injuring her nose, which I didn’t notice until after I got off. I think as much as you try to put those ‘scary moments’ behind you, we’re only human and it was certainly tip-toeing around in the back of my mind. Regardless, I got on, and we were walking. I only walked her a few circles both directions, incorporated some halt transitions, and got off. I was happy with her, and didn’t want to push my luck.
Thursday I decided to take things a little further and ride her a little longer. I lunged her prior before getting on. I'm truly not one who believes lunging should be used to tire the horse out prior to riding, but she's a bit cray so... Darwinism. We still kept it really simple with about 10 minutes of walk circles, giving to pressure, responding to aids, and finished up by walking down to the far end of the arena to the rope boxes, obstacle storage, etc (aka, a great place for monsters to hide) and dismounted.
Friday I was feeling really run down from a busy, stressful week at work and adjusting to the new schedule of going to the barn every day after work and actually getting physical exercise (gasp!), so I decided to take the day off. My plan was to work Kai Mon - Fri with the weekends off, but I knew I had to go to the arena on Sunday evening to coach a lesson so I felt less guilty about skipping Friday.
Things I learned on Week 1
There are typically 3-4 'scary spots' in the arena, and the area that concerns most horses seems to concern her the least of the 4.
Kai has been excellent about standing tied with horses coming and going, bumping into her, etc.
The deep, heavy footing is really hard on her and given that she had a tendon injury less than 8 months ago we need to take it easy.