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She's Not a Baby Anymore!

Early spring saw some immediate changes in how Ellie carried herself and our dressage work started to truly improve.  There had been times last year where flat work felt like a fight and I wondered to myself if she was ever going to just relax and listen to me haha.

Thankfully, as the title suggests, Ellie has suddenly grown up in front of my eyes.  We have had some really stellar lessons lately, where I feel like I am suddenly able to make things click.  We also had an incredibly frustrating dressage lesson a few weeks ago where Ellie was in rip-roaring peeing heat (not normal for her) and we worked through 45 minutes of her refusing to bend right.  So, ya know, as much as she is improving, she is still an opinionated redheaded mare!  ;-)

But, I have to give her credit because she is really working her little butt off for me!  Sadly, I had not been able to schedule in a jump lesson before our first three-phase, which led to me riding her ridiculously backward at a slow trot the entire …

Perfect Pony Has to Straighten Her Halo

This week is school vacation, which means I am not working yay!  I have had several super rides on Ellie, and the temperature even climbed into the high 60s on Wednesday.  
Wearing her bright green saddle pad to encourage spring to arrive haha!
Of course, it's now back to hovering right around 35, which is more in line with this time of year.  However, we have lost a lot of snow, and the almost bare ground is rather tough on hooves.  This winter's footing has been rough!
I am not usually a fan of this bright green color, but there are not a lot of choices w
hen you have a child sized saddle and need pony sized pads!  
So, that means I have to again be creative about where we ride, which leaves us with the 1000' gravel driveway that is finally free of ice and pretty much the only usable area at the monent!  While Ellie has been super easy going about the ring, the pasture, and the back field, the driveway unearthed some interesting behavior!  ;-)
From this...
Basically, she is nervous about being in front of the barn (the horse trailer and dump trailer have always been a source of worry to her) and the driveway obviously leads to cougars and other horse eating monsters.  

The nice thing is that even when she is jigging and offering to drop her head and bolt (spoiler: she tried twice and gave up when she realized she wouldn't get away with anything), I don't really feel afraid.  I just sit quietly, speak calmly to her, and continue about our ride.  I have discovered that eventually she will calm down, even though it has to be on her own timeline.  She is a redheaded mare after all!  ;-)  Ellie is willing to trust me when I am confident, quiet, and calm, just like all my other mares I have owned and trained.  I know there is nothing to be afraid of while walking up and down the driveway, so I am sure to keep my body language as calm as possible to prove it to her.  I don't tense up, I don't take my legs off, I don't pull relentlessly on the reins, and I don't pick a fight.  


To this!  There is still about 200 feet of driveway behind us (and around a curve) before you
hit the road, but this is as far as I felt she needed to go away from the house/barn haha!
On Wednesday, the day it was so incredibly gorgeous outside, it took her five times up and back before she decided she wasn't going to die.  I just stayed calm and reminded myself it was the first time she had been on the driveway since last fall; even then, I think we only went out there twice.  Then for good measure, I made her trot a bit and then walk up and down four times.  Eventually she was willing to walk quietly and stretch down to the bit for the last two trips, so I called it good.  She did get slightly sweaty on her shoulder/neck area, but it was because it was actually warm out and she has a full winter coat (not the mention she worked harder voluntarily than I asked for LOL).  I like that she is not the type of horse to break out into a full body sweat the second they get nervous.


It is hard work being a #perfectpony
Yesterday, she was looky for the first two trips up and back but not nearly as wound up as she was on Wednesday.  Then I just stuck to walking back and forth eight more times and she stretched forward and down, relaxing through her back and taking nice long walk strides.  That is all I asked of her, instead of working on halting off my seat, lateral work, trotting, or anything else.  Just walk up and down the driveway with your head screwed on correctly and you can have your face stuffed with cookies.  

Honestly, it was nice to have something to "work on", because while I am not looking for her to be naughty, I do want to work through things like this at home and develop her confidence in all situations.  She was definitely calmer and happier on day two in the driveway, so I know she understands and is trying to learn.  All of this helps give her confidence to get off the trailer someday in a strange place and just be her normal, calm self.  Don't get me wrong, I love bopping around in the snow while she gives me zero issues, but that is not real life haha.

Then, after untacking her, I spent about ten minutes refreshing our in-hand work from last fall, since the barnyard is workable (aka free of ice).  At first she pretended she had no idea how to stand still and move her legs square, but it did not take her long to remember.  I can get her to stand square or even park out slightly in the typical Morgan stance, but she is not sure she wants to stand in the "open stance" one would use on the sport horse triangle.  I cannot complain, since she is so willing and easy to stand square.  We did a little trotting in hand as well as some beginnings of turn on the haunches, and she was super.  I swear you can see the wheels turning in this mare's mind all of the time and she picks up on new things (and remembers previous lessons) quite well.  
Feed me cookies!
On that note, even though the driveway is now clear of ice and I feel comfortable hauling the trailer out, I have yet to take Ellie for lessons.  The outbreak of the Coronavirus all around the state is making me nervous, so I am staying home for now.  Supposedly, it is a cold weather virus, so hopefully things will settle down once warmer weather arrives.  Horse show dates are being posted everywhere and there are so many choices!!  I need to figure out my plan for her this year!  

Comments

  1. I'm so glad your temps are getting warmer! (Even if it relegates you to driveway riding). Spring is sooooo close!

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    Replies
    1. It really is, even though it is currently snowing like crazy and they are saying 5-8" (which in Maine really means a foot) LOL!!!

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  2. Scary about the outbreak but I'm glad you are able to develop her bravery and grit over the winter :)

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  3. She sure has come a long way from the scared and overwhelmed baby that stepped off my trailer back in September!

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