Nova is a tall drink of water. Or, perhaps a bit more appropriately, a tall drink of soda – something with bubbles, the kind that dance and pop above the glass, sparkly and effervescent. The word ‘coltish’ also springs to mind, certainly due to those long legs of hers, and the way it sometimes feels like she is still getting used to them. Not that she is ungainly, just that she possesses a looseness to her movements on occasion, much like a big puppy not yet done growing. And the comparison is apt – she is indeed a young thing still filling into herself.
For a while, she was getting turnout with Jill only – we rearranged the herd, and the two girls had a few weeks in a new paddock together. Even with a hay bag for each of them, they chose to eat together from one before moving to the next, Nova the taller of the pair often knocking alfalfa leaves into Jill’s mane.
Recently, however, they have been reunited with their old friend, Rae (in Nova’s case, the two of them were practically born together), and the trio have settled into their old routine of stretching their legs, napping in the sun, and testing the waters by moving each other around. They have also acquired some new fence neighbors – Pepper and Esme, who are quick to participate in the various dramas of teenage mares from the next paddock over, and Darla, who is a bit more aloof. With these fence introductions, the herd may be seeing an expansion soon, so stay tuned.
Nova, as a young, growing girl, has been given much of the winter off from work. Recently however, she’s taken some trips to the round pen again to reacquaint her with having her head in the game, so to speak. We worked on transitioning smoothly up and down through the gaits, as well as getting her ‘with me.’ Nova is a pretty mover, and although it takes her a moment, once she settles into a long trot or smooth canter, it is a pleasure to watch her. She requires lots of quick transitions to get her with you – leave her too long in one gait or another and you risk dulling her out. When sending a horse around, the goal is to make yourself as interesting as possible so they look to you for direction and connection. This is easier to accomplish with some horses, and Nova definitely challenges you to be a focal point. These transitions help to draw her attention and to keep it.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is maintaining her focus in a situation where it is being pulled elsewhere – most notably when she is separated from her friends. We have also added the joys of a young mare coming into season this year so the hormones are definitely in play now and an added element to working with her. In these scenarios, it is very difficult to draw her attention back from where it has been taken. The best way to go about doing so is by making the place where she wants to be – typically by the gate of the arena – more difficult, and the place where she does not want to be easy. This looks like: when she heads towards the spot she wants to be, making her “work” there, and then releasing all “work” once she turns towards the area she doesn’t want to be. “Make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy.” Easy in concept, harder to execute. Still, when she is ‘with you,’ working with Nova is a real joy.
As her training resumes in full this spring, it will be wonderful to continue to watch her grow (both physically and mentally), and I hope to have further opportunities to work with her.