March 1, 2010

Almost riding

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It’s been a while since I wrote about Kasane’s progress on the Great Path Towards Riding. She’s learned quite a bit this winter: left/right/whoa/back while ground driving, bits aren’t nasty when given with treats, and dressage saddles aren’t scary.

All of the exercises Kasane and I do build towards riding. Voice commands when lunging teach her the words so when I’m behind her ground driving she’ll understand walk or whoa. Ground driving teaches left and right so when I get on her she will know steering and stopping cues. Standing up on a panel on the round pen shows her that it’s not scary if I’m taller than she is (which I would be when I’m on her back).

Last weekend we did the usual routine of free lunging, in-hand ground work a la natural horsemanship, and ground driving with a halter and two long lines. The hardest part when ground driving is getting her to stop in a straight line. She wants to keep one eye on me when we stop so she swings around to look at me (an action that would turn over a cart). Getting her to stop square means I’m behind her (at least initially) so it takes a few tries to keep her straight when we whoa.

Two weekends in a row, I added something back in that we hadn’t done in a while. I stood up on the round pen panel so I was taller than her and guided her parallel to the fence. From there (and while hanging on to the panel), I rubbed my foot along her back, slipped my leg over her side, and just rubbed her. It didn’t bother her at all. If something had upset her, I could quickly be back on the rail. The last time I stood on the panel, I slid my leg over her and had about 80% of my weight on her back. Her response was to bite my boot.

We still have more work to do with ground driving. She needs to have more time with the bit (once she has stopped teething) and actually use it with reins. (Fruit roll-ups on a bit — brilliant!) I figure we have about another month of work before the true first ride (taking in to account daylight savings time is next weekend).

It’s been so long since I started one under saddle. I hope she turns out as well as Prize and Isis.

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