After this weekend's end of days deluge, our roundpen has been completely underwater and full of mushy grey pudding instead of nice footing. Imogen had Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off simply due to the fact that I had nowhere to work her... everything was either mush, mud or underwater. Even as recently as yesterday, we still had nowhere firm enough to work. I used my time to wisely give Her Majesty the Queen a bath yesterday instead, and work on that ridiculous mane:
I like the random lick-and-chew face I managed to catch on camera... silly girl.
As for THAT MANE, it has been a nightmare ever since day one! One of the first things I ever did with Immy when I first started to work with her was take scissors to her fourteen or so inches of bushy, dreadlocked mane and hack it all off. This did not amuse her, and she spent most of the session flailing around and trying to get away from me. I didn't know her very well at that point (this was before I started working with her), but knew that THAT MANE needed some help. The hack job helped some, but it still looked like someone's mom had tackled their kid with a bowl and some blunt scissors. Well, everyone has to start somewhere right?
Well, THAT MANE has still not yet been tamed. She is intolerant of the pulling comb at this point, and also isn't a fan of the scissor method. (I'm not either... as a pulling purist, I find it crude. Also, ugly. Really ugly. Did I mention ugly?) She's only just figured out how to relax into having her mane brushed out, so it isn't exactly like I can go crazy on it. It also lays to the left, which isn't traditional - show manes should lay on the right for mares and geldings. (Again, call me a purist.) Obviously, she's not a show horse yet, but it never hurts to look ahead and dream!
When I bathed her yesterday, I hosed all of her mane onto the left side mostly by accident, and looked at it sideways for a minute before solidifying my resolve and tackling it head on. Several fat, awkward left-laying braids later, I was on my way to having a show-ready mane... someday.
I actually was completely certain that she'd roll and/or rub them all out by the following day, but she kept them all in AND stayed clean! Hooray mare!
The roundpen finally dried out this afternoon enough for us to get back to work. In addition to further work with sacking out to the saddle pad, I also tackled the big issue of haltering her with an over-the-ears halter. This mare has undoubtedly been eared many, many times in her life. (If you've never seen an ear twitch done, it basically involves grabbing the horse's ear tightly in your hand, twisting it, and pulling it downwards as a form of restraint. They definitely don't move because it HURTS. It will also make them very headshy very fast if done improperly. And yes, there is a proper way to apply restraints of all types to ensure that the horse comes away from the experience without fear or pain. Earing, in my opinion, might come as an extreme last resort in a dangerous situation... don't use it regularly. Seriously, it's painful.) She may have actually been eared using equipment, like with a lip twitch (DON'T DO THAT), as she doesn't seem to mind my hand so much anymore, but the touch of the halter sent her into a small frenzy. A few times on, a few times off, and many cookies later, she was at least standing still for the on-off, and was a bit quieter about it. This is a deeply-ingrained issue, however, and it will take a long time for her to realize that things being slipped over her head are not going to hurt her. She will come around, I have no doubt about that. She is just too smart not to.
After that, it was onto roundpen work, and her first introduction to the actual lunge line itself! This is actually a very big step for her, as it is asking her something I've not ever wanted her to do before - to go away from me when asked. For months, I've focused all my efforts on the message of "come here, come to me, stay with me, this is a safe and good place, stay here, come here." To ask her to go away was confusing to her at first. It wasn't too hard for her to understand the message when she was lose, but she is smart enough to know today that she was still quite attached to me via the lunge line, and at first kept turning to face me with a big question mark over her face. This is not an uncommon reaction, and with a little friendly persistence, I got her to move off tracking left. This mare is insanely smart... I can't hardly believe it to be honest with you. In just three short lunge sessions she has gone from not knowing what in the heck I was asking to nailing all her voice commands with ease, walk-trot-and-whoa. The canter will come soon enough, when she is a little more balanced and sure of herself. Lunging on the line in a roundpen makes for an easy time understanding to stay on the circle, but going to the left she even kept her circle a little smaller than she really needed to, just to keep a smidgen of slack in the line for me. She stayed consistent on her circle and in her rhythm. It only took a few laps around, and she figured the whole thing out.
Going to the right was a bit of a bigger challenge at first, seeing as her right side is her hypersensitive side. She was genuinely concerned about leaving my side at first, and couldn't quite figure out to just move away. She had a few moments of being very genuinely flustered and worried, but once she finally put together what I wanted her to do, she moved smartly off and never faltered. She kept the line a little more taut on the right side, but I gave her some length and let her hug the rail, and she relaxed. She is very, very smart about pressure and release.
Seriously genius. I'm completely sure she hasn't ever really been lunged before. She gave me no absolutely no indication of knowing how to do it before we really got into it, she just really honestly figured it out THAT fast. At this rate, we'll have some tack on her in no time! (But not too quick!)