I've been lucky enough to get to ride in a local arena while it's owner is away, and my friends are 'horse sitting,' so we have been down Friday and today, with plans to go again tomorrow morning, too.
It is easiest to float Indy down, and we decided it would work to collect Pav, Teri and Liz on the way. I think it is a great training exercise to travel with another horse, not Scarlett all the time. Scarlett's floating idiosyncrasies mean she is always the second loaded, so Indy always goes in first (I need to find a way to work on that).
This trip, I switched Indy to the left side of the float, as it was such a short journey with no bad or twisting roads; I believe my horses should cope travelling on both sides of the float, but don't get many opportunities to put Indy on the left, mainly due to her size. One never knows when one might need to float another larger horse or one who needs the right side (I've had a right-side-only pony so know how frustrating that can be! never mind trying to travel two right-handers!); or if I ever travel in someone else's float and my horse has to go in the available space. In any case, I take any opportunity to mix it up to vary and solidify their travelling experiences.
Once there, we tied the horses up and ferried our gear over to the tie-ups. Teri usually takes Pav out for some groundwork to begin, while I groom and tack up; Indy does her groundwork fully kitted out.
Pav got to play over some of the smaller jumps and through the huge water puddle in one corner. He was very funny watching the crispy crackly leaves being collected by the long line on the ground - who could resist a pale palomino with flaxen mane and tail, making faces at leaves on the ground. Too cute!
Indy also got to walk through the big puddle, on the ground and under saddle. She didn't play as much as Pav, but we definitely need to make some time to head down to play with the facilities at LVF in the near future to get them doing more in the water.
After pre-flight checks were complete, we got on. I didn't do much with Indy; just walk, trot, halt; rinse and repeat. Changes of direction, walking around the various jumps and other obstacles, around the scary corner, through the water, back to the scary corner - all without issues. Pav and Teri were doing their thing, we did our thing... everyone was brilliant! It's like I have a new horse, and I love it. She feels green, which is to be expected, but she feels safe. The limited work she has had, seems to have held her in good stead: she is soft and responsive. She listens to my aids for speed and direction. We can have a conversation about "yes, we will keep going" or "no we are stopping now" which used to be completely out of the question - Indy did what Indy did, for reasons unbeknownst to both of us I think, and I was but a passenger. She thinks, rather than just reacting, or just moving her feet.
Yesterday I thought if someone wanted to buy her, they'd need to come up with a large sum of money, because she's turning into an amazing horse.
After the 'treatment' I started working with Indy more frequently. Unfortunately I managed to over-face her one day when I took her to a friend's place for a ride: the weather was against us, I didn't do enough groundwork and I didn't get her really using her hind end. Consequently, she really did not feel good to ride and I quickly got off again. I think I set her back to where she was before the quantum treatment.
Life got busy again, the temps soared, water levels plummeted, the horses didn't get worked... Indy's general demeanour was much improved, but she was the same under saddle. I ignored the 'problem,' hoping it would go away (good Tui ad, that!).
Finally, after a friend had super success sending her horse to a local person who got him "out and about" for life experience, I decided to do the same. Not schooling or training as such, more someone who had more guts than me if anything went wrong, getting Indy ridden, forward, and dealing with everything that might happen on a ride.
Two weeks before Indy was due to head off to 'school' I had a lesson. And a very serious discussion with my instructor.
What was I hoping to achieve, sending Indy away?
What part needed "fixing"?
Was the work that would be done, solve the problem I was having?
Did I even know why I was having that problem? Or how to work through it myself?
Was Indy ready to go away - or were the problems I was having showing that she needed more time and more groundwork, to "know it in her bones" rather than (somewhat) superficially?
Or was I simply trying to put some mechanical aids on my horse in the hope that I would be able to 'do more' with her... knowing full well I'd have to come back later and un-do/re-do any habits she'd learned or cemented in her brain.
It also raised the question of principles. For what reason do we have principles, if we choose not to follow them? Are we doing that knowing the consequences, or are we going in blind? Are we sure we want to deal with the fall-out (if any), just to get this short-term gain?
My short answer is no. I don't want to undo any of Indy's training. I don't want to install any cues or instill more habits - she has enough of those! I haven't been taking the time it takes for three years, to turn around and want a quick fix now.
It is only that I choose to follow a method of training and riding that is not a path well trodden here. I choose to take the slow route because I know it will pay off in the end. Sending her away was a 'way out', a 'quick fix', something *I* didn't have to do *myself*... But, if I don't have 'It' in MY bones yet, - honestly - how can I expect my horses to?
A plan of attack formed: 1 or 2x per week, I would pony Indy from Scarlett; 1x per week, she would get groundworked; 1x per week, I would ride her. That would be 3-4 times per week that she'd get worked in various ways, still leaving me time for Scarlett and time for trimming. I would have to ride on the weekend in order to know I would have a groundsperson (I have not felt like she is ready for me to ride her without someone looking out for my head to date).
Completely by chance, I ordered some Devils Claw for Scarlett. I also asked for a sample of a product called Equi So-Happy St John's Wort. The description suggested it was "nature's comfort herb. This extract consists mainly of St John’s Wort which increases levels of seratonin, which is responsible for feelings of
contentment. Long term treatment will generally settle the horse making
it receptive to training."
Knowing what I did from the quantum device's readings, I thought it might help with her anxiety and worry. I had nothing to lose - and - nothing ventured, nothing gained!
So, Indy got her first 2 or 3ml dose of SJW on Monday. A friend was able to come over on Tuesday so I could ride. The horse I caught was a content creature, alert and ready for work. She stood still for brushing and tacking up. She stood still for me to clamber aboard. She walked nicely. She travelled in both directions, easily changing from one to the other. She listened to my instructions, whether that was move on, don't move on, go this way, go that way, keep going, stop now.
I was as floored by the change, as I was by the change following the quantum device reading. Lucky for me, Jacqui was there to pinch me and tell me I wasn't dreaming, because it was THAT good I didn't believe it was happening.
Wednesday, I pulled her out of the paddock. She was the same. Alert, content, ready to work. Almost a "pick me!" look on her face. She did some lovely groundwork, so I hopped on. I did, of course, send Jacqui a text saying "I'm about to get on, no one else around, it's been nice knowing you!" I didn't need a rescuer or an ambulance. Indy was fine. More than fine. Amazing. Incredible.
I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture by now ;)
In any case, it's about the first time I have felt truly safe riding Indy, because she was super responsive - she was listening. Her ears flicked back to me as I thanked her and said she was a clever girl.
I can only describe the feeling I had after getting off, as like a kid who has just been let off the lead rein... No more holding back.
We are still here! I have not forgotten this blog! Life has been more than a little hectic over the past 6+ months... As you know, I left my job of 6+ years to pursue an opportunity to spend time as a working student for Peggy Cummings. Most of my time in the States was detailed in my other blog (http://heschenbruch.blogspot.co.nz/). I happily admit my trip to the States was life changing, and I am
so very grateful I had the opportunity, and so very glad I managed to
make it work. Thanks, Universe. ... I was, however, more than a little slack at finishing the blog off. I'll blame that on the commotion of farewells, packing, travelling, unpacking, then launching straight into job interviews, collecting my horses, and catching up with all of my trimming clients. Not to mention the jet lag!
Onwards! I have a new job as a claims assessor for a health insurance company. Giving up my previous job and coming to this one was a learning curve and a half. In a nutshell, it is not really the job for me. Luckily, I've been seconded for 6 or so months to the Pet insurance team - I REALLY like this part of the job! I spent a month full time learning more new ropes (I've become quite the rope twirler), and now I am on a 50/50 split (or 25 pet/75 medical, if the medical turn-around-time, or TAT, is too high). Unfortunately I've had to increase my hours, travel, and parking hassles for this job (I really appreciate 6 years of having a parking spot outside the office, now), which hasn't made for good horse time. I shuffled to a 7am start so that I can be home by 4pm, which gives me time to ride, or, time to trim after work. Most of the country has suffered drought this summer; one of the worst droughts in the last 100 years, I think. Winter is going to be tough: very little winter feed produced, and much of it already fed to keep animals going over summer. My horses are as fat and sassy as ever, living in a diet paddock, with a couple of hours on "grass" each day plus a feed of oats, beet and minerals. The horses have truly been on the back burner. When I have had time, I've not had the inclination to be out in the heat dealing with them. Bad, bad, bad! Life with Scarlett has been the same as usual - I always need to do more groundwork, and be more insistent that she gives me a good posture and good responses, but she is my reliable rock, my good ol' faithful horse, who I can just hop on and go. Indy has been as - what's the right word? - volatile?! as ever. For every step forward, and every breakthrough, I feel like we uncover five more things that need fixing. Sure, we're working through layers and adding finesse, but man some days I feel like we're surging backwards instead of making any progress.
Indy was an absolute STAR at the four-day clinic with Peggy up in Auckland. Peggy commented it was the first time she had seen this horse come to the clinic with a work ethic. I have to say she stole the show. The following weekend in Cambridge, I was almost disappointed I took her; though Scarlett wasn't in any state to attend, I feel it would have been better than where I got with Indy, which (at least to me) seemed like yet more back-tracking.
Things really came to a head in early January after she got a particularly good bodywork session. I took her to a friend's place for a ride. She was lovely and soft, but she reared, several times.
"That's it," said I, "into a hole she goes." I haven't put three years of hard work into this horse for her to dump me and seriously injure - or kill - me. Deep down, I knew she had so much more to give, but I wasn't about to find out the hard way that she'd ended up with a dangerous and unfixable habit. But, seeing she had been so good to that point, I decided to throw some more at her before pulling the plug. First up, bodywork. Zenya came and worked her magic. Then, diet. Then... something I didn't plan. Or even know about. A member of the UDBB forum contacted me about trimming. We got talking, and she mentioned that she has a quantum device - would I like her to run Indy? Sure, why not... I mean, that is there to lose? The results were astounding, and confirmed much of what I know about Indy. A healing program was also run, and I followed up with some homeopathic remedies and dietary supplements. The change in Indy was as clear as night and day: she softened and mellowed. She lost the tense, worried expression. She let her anxiety melt away. She started to really, truly trust me and the work I was asking her for. It was like a new horse. The horse I always knew was there, without the layers of guarded-ness and tension.