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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 …

Overcoming the NOPE

On the whole, Ellie has been a fairly reasonable mare who has agreed to most of the things I have asked her to do.  She's really not the type of horse to refuse something (at least not so far) unless she is worried or is truly green about the situation.

A few weeks ago, I introduced her to a small stream on a her first real solo trail ride.  She had no issue, mostly because it wasn't steep and there was very little water.

Yesterday, we went a little further out on the trail to the second water crossing.  This is much more technical question for her.  There is a snowmobile bridge over the stream, which is not safe at all, so in order to continue down the trail, we have to go down to the left of the bridge.  It is a little steep and narrow, and there is more water though it doesn't move fast at all.  I have crossed it many times with both Snappy and Dreamy, so I know it is safe and doable.  
The not safe snowmobile bridge over the stream
(facing towards home - so the stream crossing is on the right)
Ellie decided she'd rather not try.  I got a pretty big NOPE from her as soon as she got to the edge.  She walked right up, took one look at the water, and tried to whirl around and go back the way we came from haha.  I turned her back around, sat calmly, and encouraged her to move forward.  I rewarded her with big pats and verbal praise each time she made the choice to move forward or stand still instead of backing up.  She wasn't scared and she wasn't nervous, she just had made up her mind she wasn't going to go.  If we had a horse to follow, I think she would have just gone over without thinking about it.  But alas, we were alone.

It soon became clear that in order to get her over this water crossing, I was going to have to dismount.  I wasn't really prepared to dismount and lead her across, without a long lead rope or appropriate boots haha.  I really did not want to step in water with my tall riding boots on.  But there comes a point where you know that giving up will only reward the horse for the wrong behavior, so I was committed at this point.

I unbuckled the right side rein from her bit in order to give me a longer lead.  It's probably not the best choice in the world, but it was what I had and I know my horse isn't crazy.  There was definitely an oh shit moment right before she decided to follow me over the stream, where I realized that if I fell in the water and let go of the rein, she would probably run off haha.  I stood on the other bank way off to the side and encouraged her, keeping a firm pressure if she tried to back up but giving slack when she stood still or took a step forward.  
the stream that elicited the NOPE
Suddenly she gave this huge leap over the stream (which was rather silly and unnecessary, since it is not really that wide haha) and I had to laugh.  After lots of petting and good girls, I took her back over (she jumped it again) and then back over again she realized she could just step over it respectfully.  Then I remounted her (thank goodness for small 14.1 horses haha) and did it a few times on her back.  I never had to step in the actual water and she definitely just needed to be convinced that if I went first, she would be fine haha.

That seemed to be enough pony thinking for the day, so we headed back to the house.  About halfway home, she realized she was alone and let out a sad loud whinny.  Otherwise she was forward and happy.  We did spook a mama turkey hen on the way home, and suddenly there were like ten little chicks underfoot (sorry babies!), but other than looking closely at them all, Ellie didn't seem to mind.  

She definitely has a good brain in there and wants to do the right thing, even when her initial reaction is NOPE!  She's gotta be brave to be an event pony someday!

There is not much I'd rather do than ride through the Maine woods on my horse!

Comments

  1. Good girl, Ellie! I like her brain a lot. I wish my kids were that sensible...

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    1. I am very lucky! She comes from a line of good minded horses!

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  2. Getting off and getting them to cross a stream is SO stressful for me. I am always scared they are going to jump on top of me. It's my irrational fear. I'm glad Ellie was such a good girl!

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    1. YES! I totally agree. I had that fleeting moment of "OMG I am going to end up with a horse on top of me" as I waited for her to cross. I just stood waaaaay over to the side and hoped for the best! I don't think I would have done this with most horses, but she's a sensible mare.

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