Jan 19, 2012

     It’s been over a week since I’ve ridden Dharla. Our weather has taken a turn for the worse and with single-digit temps and horribly high winds I haven’t had a chance to get out there and do much with her. Our ground froze into a clumpy, clotted mess after ten or twelve weeks of sliding around in sloppy mud. I kind of figured this would happen since it seems to be the pattern the last couple of years. Trouble is, this leaves me without a safe place to do even the most basic ground work. The area around our barn is a slippery mess and the footing in the arena is crunchy granola hard and knobby. I could probably ask my husband to drag the arena this weekend, maybe soften up the surface a bit, but until then I’m stuck just looking out the window at my horse.

I knew this would happen eventually, but the timing really stinks. I’m only a few weeks into a ground work program and I feel like every day that passes is a setback. It’s not like I’m training an unbroke horse, but still. I think daily progress and review is important for our relationship. I had some ideas I wanted to try out for the issues with the icicles along the trail. I plan to put a halter under her bridle and carry a 15′ lead rope on our next ride. I did this when I first started trail riding Dharla in case I ran into any problems, but I’d stopped doing it a few months ago since I never had to use it. My plan is to see how she acts as we approach the “scary spot.” If she begins to balk, I’ll dismount and use the rope to lunge her either in circles or back and forth past the icicles. These icicles are not “new” to her, she’s simply refusing to move past them. I’ve given her lots of time to approach the icicles with caution, walk past them multiple times each ride, see them from both directions, sniff them … you name it, we’ve done it and still she persists in acting like she’s never seen an icicle in her life. So I would like to see if I can “cure” her of her desire to put the brakes on and learn to trust my judgement … or suffer the consequences. (Lunging)

Hopefully, this will be a step in the right direction. I won’t always have the luxury of getting off my horse and working her in the vicinity of something scary. The trails we ride are seldom wide or flat enough to do this kind of desensitization work so I may as well take advantage of it on a trail that is suitable. I will have had Dharla a year in March and brought her home to my farm April 1st. 2010. It’s not like we haven’t had time to build up some trust in me. I would very much like to see her become a bit more willing to trust that I won’t force her to go anywhere or do anything that’s not safe. We’ve covered a lot of the same miles repeatedly and I know she’s not daft. She should be getting on board with the fact that I’m not going to ask her to do something she’s not ready to do.

When I first brought Dharla home I fantasized about maybe sending her back to spend more time with her trainer over the winter. His barn is just far enough away to be almost TOO far to think I’d get there several times a week, especially if the weather turns nasty.  And I can’t imagine not seeing my horse a couple times a week; it’s almost unfathomable after having her in my own back yard. But the benefit of more training for both she and I would be enormous. I’ve never boarded a horse away from home before and the idea is both forbiddingly scary and exciting. Although an indoor arena would be available for our use (a luxury those of us without constantly dream about) this trainer seldom uses it. I know that from riding under his tutelage last March, when the ides were blowing and the snow still lay in large drifts where plows had piled it. “Are we riding outside today?” I’d ask with foreboding. “Yup” he’d say, with a twinkle in his eye and a grin. “I don’t think horses see well indoors and it makes them spooky.”

Ug. Did I mention that I hate winter?



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