I have been working Rosie over the last week to prepare her for riding. It is my belief that Rosie must have been used in some sort of sport where she was asked to be very hot with not a lot of relaxation. This showed in a few ways beginning with her work the ground. She has a very difficult time relaxing at the walk along the unified circle. She was continually pacing into a jig or trot and not connecting to my energy. I did a lot of lightly asking her hind end to yield, making it a little more work for her to continue to trot. Once she came back to the walk, I released and let her move onto the unified circle. I also used the change of direction to help get her into the walk all the while keeping my energy even and low for her to feel my quiet walking presence. We had to do this for quite some time to find a quiet walk but eventually we got there.
We’re also working on not crowding me with her shoulder as we work. This is probably one of her biggest issues right now. She is learning to keep herself upright in the front and beginning to rock some of her weight onto her hind quarters. This is a very difficult thing change but she will gradually getting better. I can see some changes in our sessions and she is retaining a lot of the work we are doing. She is also getting into the routine and is trusting that I don’t ask too much of her and there is always a lot of praise and love for the work she is willing to give me. We will need to take things slow to successfully restart this mare. There are quite a lot of trouble and confusion from her past. That is what is great about this type of horsemanship. We truly have something to offer the horses and they are better because of the patience and peace that is at the core of the work.
Rosie was very easy to saddle and accepted the back cinch without any problems. We worked in the saddle the last two days and today put the bridle on without issue. Another issue we’re working on will be coming along side the fence for mounting. She was very nervous about this and pushes her shoulder into me while I sat on the fence to have her come “pick me up”. I was very sad to see how the act of preparing to mount gave her so much anxiety and she even shook when I gathered the reins and made the motion to mount. It’s going to take time and calm, easy repetition to make this something she can feel relaxed about.
Monday of this week brought a really nice surprise…The changes that we got last week really set in and she was MUCH more calm and relaxed into a nice walk right off the bat. She had a lot of releases and tons of licking and chewing. She was so relaxed with the preparation to mount, I felt comfortable sliding my leg over and sit in the saddle. I let Lori just lead me around for a few easy circles and that was enough for the day. Such an improvement! It also shows that taking things at her pace, not asking for too much too quickly, and tons of groundwork can make riding a uneventful non-stressful experience for our horses. I am hopeful that this gentle approach is the right path for this sweet senior mare.
Rosie first ride at SAFE
Keeping it easy for a little walk around the arena
She was very quiet. Already proving to be a good pony!!
SAFE’s volunteer riders and their horses spent last weekend working with Joel Conner. Tess worked with Rosie, our new intake, in the morning groundwork sessions and with Bridgit in the afternoon riding workshop. Tess writes about the clinic and shows a ton of good insight to these two horses and her experience with them. Thank you Tess for your volunteer work with SAFE and for sharing how special these horses are! You’re putting great work into helping find them homes! Here is what Tess has to say about her sessions with Rosie & Bridgit:
When I was paired up with Rosie for groundwork I was very excited to get to work with one of the newer horses. I thought Rosie would be a total breeze to work with, but I was proved wrong within the first 20 minutes of the first session. After 22 years of bad training and being allowed to walk all over her handler she needs lots of retraining. Her tendency was to try to crowd me and brace against me. When trying to bend her head head around she would create a brace and try to back up. After going around in circles backwards for a while she finally got it and was then very soft whenever I asked her to bend. It was to same story with backing. By the second day I really felt a change in her. She wasn’t crowding me as much and was much softer when I asked her to bend or back up. She’s very willing to learn and almost enjoys it when someone tells her to stop doing something and make a better choice. She had a hard time standing still initially (would start weaving and tossing her head or head butting me), but whenever I bumped her to say “stop that, keep your focus on me,” she would immediately start licking and chewing and even occasionally yawning. I’m very excited to see Rosie continue to learn and grow into the amazing horse she has the potential to be!
Bridget was a total rock star for the clinic! I have been working with her for a few months now and and was very excited to be able to ride her in the clinic. She’s done several other clinics with Joel so she’s a total pro at these, but this was my first clinic with Joel and my first clinic ever! I was a little worried about her being able to do everything due to her stifle weakness which we have been working to strengthen, but she didn’t have a single issue. I think I probably learned and grew more than she did. Bridget is such a great horse to learn on. She’s very forgiving and can take a joke. She’s also the kind of horse where you have to ask her to do something properly in order for her to do it properly, but even when I didn’t ask something properly she would still try to figure out what I was asking and wouldn’t get upset or frustrated. The only time I ran into any trouble was on the second day when she was obviously tired (I was tired too) and was somewhat reluctant to move off my leg. After she got it once though I didn’t have any trouble again. By the end of the clinic I felt that we had both really grown as a pair. She was even softer than she was at the beginning of the clinic, and she was already very soft, and she was much more prompt to respond to my aids. I’m so excited for her to become stronger and stronger so we can continue to grow! She is such a joy to work with and be around. She is constantly making me laugh, I have never met a horse with such a sweet and fun personality.
More photos from the clinic:
Rosie & Joel
Rosie learning to yield her front quarters.
The flag will not eat me!
Learning to back off the halter knot with softness.
Prince, Rico, Vida, Rosie, and Ruckus were surrendered to SAFE after their owner passed away unexpectedly from cancer. The five horses were transported without incident to a SAFE foster home, where they will remain until their quarantine period is over. We’ve been told that the four full-sized horses are well started under saddle and some are very easy to ride. They all seem to be very well mannered and reasonably healthy. The five together make up a lovely little herd, and we’ve really enjoyed watching them interact with each other.
Every horse deserves at least ten friends! Even a small monthly donation can make a difference. Plus, SAFE horse sponsors receive discounts at local businesses through the SAFEkeepers program!