Summer vacation is over, and Zan is back to work!
She will be spending a month at a large, busy, boarding facility. This is a great experience for her and I’m so glad she has this opportunity. This is a different environment than she’s ever experienced. The indoor is completely enclosed with stalls backing 3 sides. Sun spots appear. Doors open and close. The footing is deep and soft. The outdoor borders turn-out paddocks. It’s right on a major recreational highway so packs of motorcycles, bicycles, and all manner of traffic go buzzing by. At feeding time, an entire barn full of horses makes a ruckus. There are generally a number of people and other horses milling about. Most of our rides have included 3–4 other horses sharing the arena. All of this very different than her past experiences.
On our first ride in the indoor arena all was going well– she was relaxed and paying attention to me. We tried a bit of canter but the deep footing is something she hasn’t worked much in and she was having a hard time picking up the correct lead. I decided some decent trot work was enough for our first day out and decided to cool her out on a long rein. Right about that time, a little barking dog appeared out of no-where and startled her, resulting in a big spook. We gathered ourselves back to together and went back to work for a few minutes. Surprisingly, she didn’t make a fuss about going by the doors so we went back to cooling out and called it a day.
I rode her again the next day, and after some additional consideration she’d concluded that the doors were, in fact, quite scary. As were little dogs of all types. I didn’t make a fuss, we just went about our business and worked on the pieces that were good, pushing the envelope a bit, and acknowledging that this was all quite new to her yet. Zan is the kind of mare where if you give an inch, she’s got a mile before you know what happened. At the same time, if you make something a battle, she is definitely willing to go toe to toe with you. As with most things in life, it’s to everyone’s benefit if you can lead her to make the right decision on her own. We did some leg-yielding towards the doors, which helped. We trotted past them on the inside track, that also helped. I decided that was enough for the day and we left it. I didn’t attempt the canter this ride as I know she can canter and I’m a big believer that sometimes “slow is fast”.
Ride three we discovered something new to worry about. A cat came blazing out of the arena like his tail was on fire, just as we were about to enter. Zan jumped out of her skin in the aisleway but by the time we got into the arena, she was fine. After the barking dog and the bolting cat, she was a bit on edge about all small animals at this point– waiting for the next thing to appear out of no where. I ignored it and we went to work. We worked on the doors again, this time, much less of an issue. We did a little bit of canter in each direction, but in general kept it short and sweet. Focus was on standing quietly at the mounting block, rhythm and relaxation at the trot and a little bit of canter under saddle. All of that accomplished, we called it a day.
On our fourth ride we encountered yet another new experience. The big doors at the end of the arena, which had always been closed previously, were now open, revealing a tractor. Zan wasn’t too worried about it. It was a busy Sunday morning at the barn, so we decided to move outside and try the outdoor on for size. I was warned that sometimes horses spook at the herds of bicycles that ride by (with their neon colors, clicking noises, flags, etc) and the packs of motorcycles that rev their engines as they accelerate onto the highway. But, if anything, Zan was more relaxed outside. We went back to work for a little bit– just to get the feeling of the outdoor and then called it a day.
That brings us up to date. Zan is doing quite well. She continues to progress and settle in as a riding horse. She’s less pushy on the ground these days, and less rushy under saddle. She takes her job seriously and is a level-headed little mare who is more than ready to go off and be someone’s partner.
P.S. I’ll try and get some recent pictures or video of her under saddle soon. She’s going so well, time for an update!