The past weeks have been quite cold around here, with day temperatures below 0°C. Oh yeah, that sounds really meek compared to some fierce minus F° in other parts of the world, but that still means the ground was too frozen to ride and visits to the horses often was limited to checking on blankets and a quick rub.
I did, however, manage to do a few important things. Things that look really minor and secondary, but are actually quite important for a solid and functional riding horse.
First, Dandy goes on having constant and varied interaction with a bunch of other equines (and chicken, ducks and goat, the odd dog, etc…). That is super important. That means a horse in control of itself enough to not be a hasard if you’re close and a horse pal suddenly walks up for a sniff. Everthing is smooth and civil and safe.
Then, we still do regular groundwork. It’s really the bare minimum to do if you want to keep your horse operating for you with quality. Sending off a small cue, being able to change direction, stopping, moving high quarters or yielding shoulders, flexing and backing up, all of this is like you super basic stuff that your horse needs to be able to do very well. We don’t drill but we are thorough and specific. Cues are as light as possible, and as strong as necessary. It can be tilting my head ever so slightly looking at his hip, or whacking him on the butt with my flag. Really, that’s his decision (usually, one happenance of the latter re-establishes the former, too).
Riding bareback. That is another cornerstone of our program right now. The riding is important, because bareback and with no reins, just a halter and one sided leadrope, the HOW you ask the horse becomes crucial. But before climbing on, parallel parking next to all sorts of support (plastic cubes, tree stumps…) is also a great and quite technical exercise. It really gets deep attention and thorough focus from the horse, who learns to work in close collaboration. He’s not being “told”, he’s a partner who does his share (coming close and at a perfect angle, then standing still while the miserably akward human scrambles on) so that the task can be safely and successfully accomplished. This is a confidence and ego booster for a horse, and they need boosting of those as much as humans do 😉
And last, but not least, I have been able to take Dandy for a walk outside of the property where he’s boarded, which is way more “suburban” than anything he’s ever known before. We went on a stroll with two other equines (a horse and a pony). It all went pretty chill and we’re ready to tackle a longer, more challenging setting, and all on own our. Stay tuned for the coming walk along the highway !