Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day17-19, Benefit Playday and a Day of Rest

My Friday was spent teaching lessons and preparing Whispering Hills farm for Saturdays Play day event. For those of you that don't know what a play day is, let me explain. Essentially we invite local horse people to come out to our facility to play and ride with all of the obstacles, arenas, and trails for a day fee. Kind of like a horse social. Any way Saturday was the big day for this and I wanted to make sure the place looked good and we were ready for the extra traffic.

Saturday morning we headed to the barn early to get the horse fed by the time people started to arrive. We had a great turn out and everyone had a great time challenging their horses with the different toys we had around. I got out with Eclipse and played with the pedestal among other things in the play yard. Before lunch the majority of our participants went to the arena and and played a group "stick with me game". Imagine 20 people and twenty horses in our 90 by 120 arena... now imagine most of them taking off their horses halters and lead rope! The game goes like this, once they are at liberty with their horses, the people start to mill about and in most cases the horses "stick with" their partner. This tests the horse/partner connection. Yes, some of the horses "leave" their partners at times and we work as a group to get them back together. With a full arena this is quite simple. All the other humans take their training stick and drive the lost horse away and keeps the lost horse moving until at last the horse find the one human, his partner, that doesn't drive them away. The horse then starts to associate their partner with safety and the bond strengthens. During the 40minute session only a handful of horses left their partners, and yes Eclipse was one of them. In classic horse fashion he had to test his boundaries and left me. he quickly stole another horse to join him in his search for freedom. He and Storm went gallivanting around the arena meeting pressure from the other participants at every turn. The first time it took a good ten minutes to get him to reconnect with me. He did leave a couple more times, but each time I could see him start to look for me as soon as he realized that he had made a mistake. By the end Eclipse was quite content to "stick with me", it was much safer there!

After lunch we tacked up and warmed up. We had one small struggle in his warm up. I have been focusing on Eclipse's right lead on line. This is his less confident side... he prefers me to be in his left eye. For a moment I got stuck trying to get Eclipse to circle to the right. He would go a half a lap then turn to face me (and to put his left eye on me). After about five minutes of sending and him stopping I changed where I was standing and put myself in a better position to drive him forward. As long as I drifted with him to keep myself behind his shoulder he continued to go forward at a canter. I got a few more laps with him in this position then mounted up to start our ride.

Our goal was to do our first on property trail ride today with the group, so it was important that I had Eclipse's full attention before leaving the arena. Once I felt we were there, we left the arena and headed out to the pasture to work some more. Things were good even with all the distraction of the other horses. We organized ourselves into two groups which ended up being the kid riders and the old folks. As much as I do not consider myself old, Eclipse and I went with the adults. There we were facing 50 acres of woods, creeks and open pasture! Not confident enough to lead we put ourselves behind a more seasoned trail horse. First challenge of the day would be the creek crossing that Eclipse always want to go straight up the embankment instead of taking the narrow trail up the side to the top. So far so good, when we got down to the water he stopped dropped his head, sniffed then walked through, now for the embankment. It helped to have another horse to follow that didn't prefer the straight up route. With a little guidance he took the skinny trail like a pro. We went all over the property, crossed every creek, trotted some, and crossed logs. Save for jumping one small creek crossing, and getting a little impulsive at the trot once we got in the pasture, our ride was quite a success!

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