Monday, May 28, 2012

Rondo's training and Panama's calling

I am a few days behind in my horse adventures again.  On Thursday, my trainer worked with Rondo.  My broken finger is healing, but I was still reluctant to lunge Rondo in case he acted explosive on the line (a fairly regular occurrence still), as I didn't want my finger to get yanked by the line (the wrap that's on it is like vet wrap, and since it can stick to itself, other things can also stick to it).  So my trainer did all the work on Thursday (usually she has me do some of it so that I learn the techniques, and can work with him when she's not there -- that's how we trained Panama, too).

Anyway, he lunged pretty well on Thursday, aside from the usual resistance going to the left -- he walks, trots, and canters easily to the right, but requires much stronger cues to get him to canter to the left, usually with bucking and a scrambling gait that seems to me like it's halfway between trying to run away and trying to keep from falling down.

Then my trainer leaned and laid on his back again, and had me lead him while she was draped over his back.  Rondo does much better when he learns things in small stages, so we are getting him used to the idea of weight on his back gradually, and in a situation where she can just slide off if he has a meltdown.  And on Thursday, he demonstrated why this was a good plan: She swept her hand back along his side, petting him from his girth to his flank, and when she got to his flank he let loose with a huge buck.  Because she was just draped over his back, she landed on her feet (though not before crashing into my back first, as I was leading him at the time!).  So, having identified an issue to work on, she got right to work on desensitizing him to being petted and touched while she was above or over his back.

All in all, I was pleased -- he is a slower horse to start than Panama, though that is likely due in part to the fact that I worked with Panama every day when he was this age, and I haven't been doing so with Rondo.  But my trainer said it doesn't matter how slow we go with him, and I actually suspect that it might be doing him a favor to take it easy and give hi an opportunity to grow up somewhat in the meantime.  Rondo just turned 3 -- by this age, Panama had been under saddle for six months, and was just starting to go on trail rides!  But he was also very spooky and babyish still, and though he was the type of horse who always wanted to find the right answer and please me (it literally only took us 7 or 8 sessions to get him under saddle), I sometimes think I exacerbated some of his issues by rushing things a little.

I can't complain, though, because despite Panama's inclination to be difficult at times, he is still such a good horse.  I rode him for the first time since my accident on Saturday -- despite the broken finger and the sticky wrap, I was fairly confident that Panama wouldn't do anything that would hurt my finger.  He was a bit difficult, since it was extremely windy (though we rode inside, the wind was rattling the big doors) and since he hadn't been ridden in over a week.  But he was good enough that I was willing to entrust him with the little 10-year-old girl I nanny for.

V. has been taking lessons with my trainer for the last few months, and getting much stronger as a rider, so I was fairly confident that she could handle Panama's more rapid trot (it scared her when she was last on him a few months ago).  Sure enough, she did wonderfully on him.  He tried testing her at first, seeing what he could get away with, but with my guidance she kept him on track and he stopped trying after a few minutes.

I am actually really amazed at how good Panama is with the kids I nanny for.  A., who is nearly 5, can go all around Panama in the cross ties, and dump a stool down next to him to stand on to groom, and Panama doesn't startle at all.  And he was so good for V., despite the wind and the other horses in the arena and the fact that he hadn't been ridden in a while.  Sometimes I think his calling really is as a kids' horse -- not that I would ever give him up, but I'm excited that V. will be riding him more often over the summer.

Hubby and I are both off work this week, so I am planning to get out to the barn frequently, almost every day if I can manage it.  I am looking forward to doing some more riding, easy stuff because of my finger of course, but now that the splint is off it can't keep me away entirely!  And I want to spend some more time with Rondo, grooming and doing some fun stuff, not just working.  Perhaps it will help to make up for the months of once- and twice-weekly visits, and help get me psyched for doing a little more with them over the summer!

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