I was home last weekend which was lovely. Though, my mother’s on-off poorliness may have become something more extreme, which is a worry. Going back up before the end of the month to attend a hospital appointment with her, find out as much as we can. I’ve not got much more to say about that, sickness of loved ones is too real for something like a blog post.
We also had another pony camp this week at Summerfield. So all-in-all, it came around to Thursday evening and I hadn’t seen my horse in a full seven days.
Though frequency and consistency matter, horses thankfully don’t seem to process the passage of time in the same way as we do. Skye forgave my absence and came out of the field the same as she always does. The girls had said hello to her once over the weekend and sent me some cute selfies with her, so at least I knew she’d had a bit of pleasant human contact.
Her posture hadn’t changed either. She seemed fatter again and it’s all on the belly (I swear to god, if this horse is accidentally in foal…), but her back looked as well as it ever does. Did a belly lift and pelvic tuck on the yard, very good. Picked up her feet alright (just sticky on the fronts as it’s still hard for her), and let us tack her up with bridle, cavesson, pad, and saddle.
Oh, but I had my instructor-friend there… It’s so funny but Skye, bless her heart, always side-eyes her with great suspicion. She clocks her instantly as The Professional and gives the impression of a horse that, every so often, someone new has tried to “sort out”. The reason it tickles me is that this friend is the person I would most trust in the world with my horse. With any horse, in fact. So I’ll be softly laughing and saying, “ah Skye, if only you understood…” whilst the horse is consistently keeping a wary eye on this untrustworthy person quietly and confidently pottering around her.
Amanda got an insight into her character on the yard. I’d left her holding the horse and some children were playing with a hose pipe. As it uncoiled and sprayed, Skye did a mini-shy, but then rather than want to get away from the scary thing she took a curious step towards it and watched them. This is what she’s like, and it’s why I love her.
We tacked her up using my old VSD saddle, which did not fit… But it sat there without squeezing or annoying her, so we thought it would do for a quick lead out just to see what she thought to carrying a girthed-up saddle. She’d been uncertain about being saddled but I think that’s because I tasked the friend to do it whilst I held the lead. Probably should have done it the other way around, as she’s already had me saddle her before and was quite serene about it. Anyway, we went for an in-hand hack along the usual route, quiet roads and a small bridleway. As ever, horse was looky and a bit shy for the first part then perked up once we hit the bridleway. Perhaps it is the softer ground? Perhaps the mud compacting in her feet has a cushioning function even once we’re back on the road? She’s always more forward after the bridleway too, you see.
She settled to Amanda’s presence, but not 100%, and at one point my friend stumbled in a ditch behind her and the horse spooked forwards shoulder-barging me into the air for a tiny step! It was actually funny more than anything. Skye’s shies are small, leg-splayed, freeze-frames, and they’re getting less and less as she grows in confidence. But here we were with no other horses, a professional, and a saddle on her back. She did great really.
Halts were attentive as ever, and her walk opened up super-keen at the bridleway. We were struggling to keep up a few times! She seemed very happy and forward (but still very attentive), so I invited trot a couple of times on the road (I’d have sunk in the mud on the bridleway!) and she obliged beautifully. She just loves to explore and have a look around. I was able to halt from body language, vocal cue, and lead or reins, and I was able to pick up and fiddle with the reins (no pressure, just the weight of them bouncing around), and she didn’t care one jot, was very merry in her mouth. Given how she stiffened the first time I put a bridle on I’m really impressed with how quickly she’s relaxed and gone, “oh right, I see, it’s like before but nicer, no need to worry.” This is the experience we need to recreate for every “new/old” thing that she has preconceptions about, and I’m glad that yesterday she carried the saddle happily. She didn’t lift or drop her back, she didn’t mind it moving (it really doesn’t fit), she didn’t even mind when we whipped the pad out from the back (it had almost slipped out itself anyway), and her walk was the same as ever. And she was volunteering trot from eagerness, so she clearly didn’t care that it was there. So pleased with her, and may use the saddle (or a different/cheaper one, I could do with selling this really) just for tacking and untacking every so often to get her chill about the process.
Friend said that from behind she looked surprisingly straight and that the only thing standing out was the dropped left hip. I will need to think about where this comes from and how to help improve it. The chiro helped, I’m sure, but I’d like to know more and be in a better position to focus my efforts so as to help the horse.
We pushed our luck upon returning as I wanted to make use of my friend being here and see if we could re-back the horse.
Saddle off (friend is very confident backing, doesn’t mind doing it bareback), into the arena, touching all over, jumping by her side, legging-up and just holding it a second, plus walking around the mounting block and halting.
Now, aside from the legging-up, Skye has done all these things with me and has been chill about, but with The Professional, it was a different kettle of fish. “You can’t trust them, these professional sorts, they climb aboard and do all sorts of things to you!” Horse was a sweetheart, but just said “nope!” in the mildest ways possible and got a bit stressed about the whole thing. So we let it be and I may try again with one of my yard buddies in a few weeks, since she sees them more often and knows them a little bit. I’d do it myself (think she’d be happier about that, to be honest), but I’d really rather it was a small/light person given she’s not strong yet, and my friend agreed. Said she thinks she’ll do the job fine once she’s strong (and that may come more swiftly than I expect, if I put the time in) but that for now a smaller load would be better. I may bump the lunging to twice a week (Jec Ballou’s outlines for “bringing into work” suggest this would be fine), but otherwise I think continuing as we are (subtle postural stuff, plus lots of walking, more than we have been doing really) is the thing. I’m looking forward to playing with the gym mat I’ve bought for her. Having stood on it myself I can really see how it would be something like standing on the boat. Firm enough that you are only very slightly destabilised, which should switch on the deepest postural stabilisers. Apparently even 5mins a day is useful. I’m thinking to begin this once we’ve moved yards though. Plenty to get on with in the meantime and if I take it down I’ll only have to move it again before the end of the month and it’s surprisingly bulky!
I finished by doing some free-following, but even that isn’t much fun for Skye. I think she may have had join-up done to her in the past, possibly in a very “effective” way, as although I never send her away when she’s following me off-lead she gets a rather dejected look and subservient posture, as though she’s been made to follow before, and so following has its own associations. “I’d better follow, or she’ll chase me!” After all, she’ll lead at my side fine enough, it’s only when behind me and off-lead that she gets concerned. It’s a very specific set of circumstances, which is what makes me think someone’s drilled the join-up thing at some point.
Just another thing for me to think creatively about. I need to let her know that she can be alongside or behind or wherever, but that she doesn’t need to blindly follow, that I do welcome participation rather than obedience. I tried to make it interesting yesterday by going over poles and then sort of zigzagging back and forth in-between them. She didn’t perk up, but she did as asked so at least our communication is coming along.
So horse had a few questions asked of her, perhaps one or two more than I should have asked, but she handled them all great. My friend said she’s coming on really very fast for an animal with so much baggage and I agree. I was sad to have “lost” a week, but her consistency just goes to show how much she’s settled. We were talking about the fact that though she could be easily wound up (and she’s spirited enough to react badly), she’s actually a really easy and sweet beastie. Love her character ever such a lot.