Monday, November 30, 2009

Saddlebred and Arab

I've been told I need to post here more often! I guess it's been a while since my last post, ahem..

We recently sent home Keyanna, a young Saddlebred mare, after starting her. She is actually a horse I bred and sold as a weanling. Knowing her parents was a definite advantage. Her dad is Max (aka Mad Max), my favourite horse on the place and the stallion I ride the most when I have time.

It's great to see them again after they grow up. I'm lucky in that a lot of people who bought horses from us keep in touch and at the very least they occasionally update me with photos. But it's very special to have the horses back here for starting.

Keyanna was a bit of a scatterbrain, always busy and strongly convinced of being the centre of the universe (I call that the Princess syndrome). So she was pushy and used to getting what she wanted. She was quite put out by the new management when she arrived. Being a very smart girl she understood NO very quickly though and very shortly she was quite happy to be on the receiving end of instructions. She was particularly scatterbrained and touchy when she was in season. As it was early spring, she was in season a lot :-)

I have a rough programme I follow when I start youngsters, but I modify it as needed and I have not set timing for doing stuff. I take the next step when the horse tells me it's ready. How do I know? Boils down to the feedback I'm getting from the horse and my gut feeling and experience.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Keyanna needed a lot of time at the beginning due to her short attention span. And we had terrible weather for weeks which delayed us anyway. But once the basics were programmed in, she rapidly progressed and we were out riding in no time. Just like her dad, she took most things in her stride, doesn't worry about much. She loves people and will do (almost) anything for you. Praise sends her to seventh heaven. She has her moments, she's still a princess at heart and she has a sense of humour. So she gives you the odd bit of excitement, just because she can :-). And she'll never put up with boring routines or inconsistent humans.

Oh yes, she is lovely. Yes, I wish I'd kept her. But that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Now we have another mare in work, a purebred Arabian mare, about 8 years old I believe. Unlike Keyanna, she thinks people are scary, at best ok for bringing food. She is highly reactive, jumps or twitches at every noise or movement. Is worried about being touched anywhere but the head. Doesn't want to be caught (though horse bait works). She is accordingly tense and looks at everything with suspicion. I can see that she wants to look at what I do and she actually wants the touch (on the head) and like all horses, she wants to be OK. But she is finding it very hard.

Interestingly, she often seems to tolerate something, say the saddle blanket. Then, after a little time, she can't any more. And then she becomes hectic and electric... So you have to start again. Means of course I'm going too fast. Unfortunately, the feedback from her is that it's ok first. So I'm adjusting my approach with her to take that into account. Slow down even more.

She is highly intelligent, of that I'm sure. She is also playful and has a touch of the princess syndrome. But it's all overshadowed by fearfulness. I know she's not been badly treated, she has never had much done with her except feeding, worming, foot trims and being transported here. So it's fear of the unknown, not fear of people due to bad treatment.

She is pretty much hair triggered and you can see the whole horse intantly turn into a taught bundle of muscles, ready to explode in some direction. And explode she does. My best friend and fellow horse "hassler" Yvonne often takes photos. Yesterdays efforts are documented here.

Although I took a lot of time to introduce the roller and I gently put it on and held it, she still exploded when I asked her for a step forward when I did it up (not very tight). It's very rare indeed that we have a horse buck in training, because we do it step by step. At some stage though, you have to close the buckle and the horse feels the restriction. Unfortunately, the odd one fights it, no matter how careful you are. But better we sort this now and she moves on so to speak than that we have that reaction when I first sit in the saddle.

She was never relaxed until we finished, but at least she was able to walk and trot and stretch down with the roller on after a little while.

Today we repeated the roller, but put a pad under it. Same slow approach. She was even more skittish today, but it was a bit windy and she has come in season, so that would account for some of it. Started bucking again, but as soon as I used the voice from hell (I'm really good at that), and told her to stop, she did. Finished with a couple of rounds trotting and walking and practicing neat stops and standing still. She doesn't like to stand there alone, she wants to come and crowd me which is insecurity.

After that, Yvonne did a bit of targetting with her, but the mare's mind was obviously elsewhere. Yeah, that's the problem in spring with mares in season and so many stallion about the place. Can't blame the girls, so many good looking boys to look at ;-)

Ah yes, and some Keyanna photos are here. And some of Bluey, another young mare in work (ours) and me being silly, which is soooo unusual...