Friday, March 14, 2008

Lungeing Libby

The weather has been gorgeous the past couple of days, so I've been taking a little time each morning to fit a little bit of horse training into my schedule. Of the yearling fillies, Libby seems most likely to sell first, so I've been concentrating on her for now.

I've been reviewing the basics with her: leading, standing tied, lifting her feet, etc. She knows all this already, but since I haven't handled her much lately it's good to give her a review, to get her back into the mindset of "lessons" with some easy stuff, after a winter of constant "recess" with her friends.

All winter, we were too broke to be able to afford grain, so the horses ate only hay. Now that we've sold a few horses, we can afford to feed grain again. So on top of the normal friskiness of springtime and the adolescent friskiness of becoming yearlings, the youngsters are also having the extra energy of adding grain to their diets---just in time for their spring growth spurts.

Which means that Libby and the other youngsters are a bit feistier than usual. These past two sessions, it has taken Libby a little while to settle down into "lesson" mode. But she's so smart and willing, even her little rebellions are so minor: a little toss of the head, a momentary balking, a little lapse of concentration to whinny for her friends. Things to be corrected, certainly, so that she remembers her proper manners. But pretty minuscule in the grand scheme of horsey bad behaviors.

Yesterday, her first training session this spring, was just review. Today, I added a few new things: Since I don't have a horse trailer to practice loading her onto, I practiced leading her in and out of the barn as a substitute. Bear in mind that our "barn" is not a horse barn, so this is much more challenging than it sounds. It's a narrow door leading into a dark, low-ceilinged room, with a loud, hollow-sounding wooden floor. So really, it is a good substitute for learning to load on a trailer.

The other new thing I tried with her today was the first steps in teaching her to lunge (circle around me on a long rope at various gaits). She has already done a bit of round pen work, learning to move away from pressure, turn, and halt according to my body language. She's just never done it on a lunge line before, and I haven't really asked her to respond to voice commands.

She's a quick learner, though. We did walk, trot, and whoa in both directions. She doesn't have them down perfectly yet, but she's definitely making progress.

Because it's asking a lot of her to concentrate on lessons when she can hear her friends running around playing in the pasture, I try to change up my lessons to be contrary to her expectations, to encourage her to really pay attention to me instead of just assuming she knows what's in store.

For instance, instead of working her in the round pen, I did the lungeing lesson in the back pasture, and then took her out to the round pen to just have a relaxing walk and a bit of grain as a reward. Tomorrow, I'll do something different, to keep the experience fresh for her.

She's such a bright, happy thing, I really enjoy working with her.

The other accomplishment for today was that Ken and I (mostly Ken, but with some help from me) finished building the lambing pens in the barn. They look pretty nice, especially compared to the inconvenient, makeshift setup we had last year.

Once I get them all "accessorized" with bedding, buckets, lights, etc., I'll take photos and post them here.

No comments: