Friday, May 21, 2010
All Set And Ready To Go
I'm officially full-term in my pregnancy this week. So, this baby could come any time between now and three weeks from now. Sooner would be appreciated, but these things tend to run on their own time. Oh well. In the meantime, I've been busy getting everything squared away with the horses. The vet's been out for spring shots, the farrier came last week and the horses got their spring de-worming this week. I have to make sure my horses are taken care of before I go off and do something frivolous, like have a baby. Priorities!
Speaking of babies, we have had several new additions to the farm this week. Thirteen new additions, in fact. One of the hens hatched out a nest full of chicks two days ago. We're just inundated with babies here.
On the horse training front, I haven't been getting a lot done, but I'm still fairly happy with it. From a stamina/fitness point, Spider is doing fairly well. He can trot/canter for 30-45 minutes easily and without really breaking a sweat. His muscle tone leaves a little to be desired, he looks more like a Hunter/Jumper than a Dressage horse, but we can fix that later - post baby. He needs more collected and lateral work to get those nice beefy Dressage muscles, but that's difficult to do on the lunge line. Well, difficult for me anyway. I'm much better at riding horses than I am at lunging or long-lining them. The giant pregnant belly tends to make things a little more difficult, too. The pregnancy induced crankiness doesn't help, either.
We're still working on Spider's trick-training, just for funsies. I haven't progressed him past the "picking up foot and holding it" phase because we hit a little snag. As predicted, Spider likes to anticipate the cue. Pretty much as soon as I stop him anywhere he starts picking up his feet. He's very proud of himself, if he could talk I'm sure he'd be saying: "Look what I can do!" Unfortunately, I have to ignore him and do something else when he does his trick un-cued. Usually I just start lunging him for a few minutes to distract him, then come back to the trick. I try to make it as random as possible: we don't work on the trick every day, we don't work on it at the same time during the session (i.e., I try not to do it at the beginning or the end of the session, but randomly in the middle), some days we don't work on it all and some days it's all we do. It's actually evolved from really being a "trick" to being a lesson in not anticipating cues.
At the upper levels of dressage, anticipation can be a bad thing. There are certain movements, like trot extensions, that are only called for at certain points in a test. I've ridden several upper level horses (including my own Schoolmaster, Vinny) who anticipate the extensions and will try to do one any time you ride across the diagonal. This can be problematic, particularly if the rider is unprepared to ride an FEI horse's extension. Vinny has un-horsed a few people this way over the years. It's certainly a behavior I want to discourage in Spider.
So, our little trick has become an excellent "teachable moment". He's rewarded for doing it on cue, and ignored and made to do something else when he does it on his own. It's not at all what I was going for when I started it, I thought it would just be a fun little diversion. It's funny how things tend to work out in unanticipated ways when dealing with horses. I think, for me, that's probably the main attraction to working with animals, it's not static. The situation is constantly changing as the horse's training develops and the trainer has to continuously adapt. It's a challenging thing. There's no "autopilot" when it comes to horses.