Yes, I really did just reference this video. Throwback! (Not work safe. At all.)
My beloved Immy, while still occasionally jumpy and unpredictable, continues to show me every day how far she has really come. While I can't guarantee that things won't frighten or surprise her, even run of the mill things on occasion, I can definitely say that she really tries to figure out the right thing when something is complicated, instead of just throwing in the towel and shutting down (like she used to). On Friday, she truly showed her mettle even in the face of adversity - and much to my delight, overcame a very scary situation with relative ease.
Things started out run of the mill on Friday. Immy was easily caught in the field (hooray for being back to normal!), tolerated more mane pulling (like a champ! Although it helps when you continually shove cookies into her mouth!), and was extraordinary good about bridling (for her). I opted to try while she was crosstied in the closed-in washstall, so she was secured and also had nowhere to back up. Normally, I do not EVER try to do something difficult when the horse is tied or crosstied, just in case something terrible happens and they set back or get tangled, but I decided to give it a try. Much to my surprise, while she raised her head and rolled her eye a bit, she stood still and allowed me to touch and pet her head, and put the headstall on without further issues. She took her cookie with an air of, "well, I suppose that wasn't so bad." I think that it will just take time, just like with everything else. The more times I handle her head and bridle her, the more she will realize that she has neither died nor been clubbed over the head in the process. It will become run of the mill, like blanketing and haltering. (The sight of a halter or blanket used to send her into a panic!)
I think she's about ready for a noseband, too!
Following her grooming session, I took her into the arena for some more lunging and grounddriving. This was a big step, seeing as I have only driven her while in the roundpen, which is obviously a much smaller area. She has done very well with it, so I decided it was high time to start working in a larger area. Little did I know it, but I was in for a big surprise!
It started off fine, with her lunging in both directions like a champ. She has given up the pulling, thank god, and now stays nicely with light tension on the line the entire time. We finished with a nice whoa, and hooked up the lines for grounddriving. It started off relatively innocuous, for the first 5 seconds or so... and then a truck unloading hay backfired right next to the arena. She spooked, spun around in shock, and found herself facing me with pressure on her mouth. I tried to quiet her and move towards her, but she had absolutely none of that, and threw it into reverse. Backing turned into scooting sideways, which turned into trotting, which turned into an outright bolt. I'm not He-man, and running behind her trying to stop her is most certainly terrifying (and totally impossible to boot), so I did the only thing I could do - I let go. She zoomed to the far end of the arena, rounded the corner, and came back up the long side, where she came to a stop and stared at me from a distance. "You are a silly girl," I told her as I approached. She continued to stand and look at me, a little unsure but unmoving. I caught her, loved on her for a minute, and rearranged my lines. "Walk on," I told her. She did. A minute up the way, at the same spot she had spooked in before, she started to jig forward. This time, I gave her the whoa command, and she stopped dead and turned her head to look at me while I praised her. She went on to have a great session, with calm walk-ons and whoas, and lots of steering in both directions.
I consider this session to be a huge success. Yes, it started out not so great, but the fact that she not only was able to be caught after she had been scared so badly, but was able to put her fear aside and get back to doing her work, means far more to me than what happened in the beginning. It also makes me very happy that I have this mare, and not someone else - someone else might have caught and punished her for her "naughty" behavior to start. I cringe even thinking about it.
Yesterday was supposed to be her second ride (and today her third), but considering that she had been pushed to the limit on Thursday and that she had responded beautifully, I decided to back off and give her a day to just relax. This is not a mare that can be pushed and pushed - she works best when she is pushed, then the pressure is taken off for a day. She is not game for continual challenges. Maybe someday she will get to the point of having the mental mettle to deal with it, but for now, there is no need to overly stress her. Slow and steady wins the race... if you do anything wrong at this stage, they don't forget it, so it is better to just take your time and go as they are ready. This horse of all horses is NOT going to be the one that goes from zero to w-t-c broke in 30 days. As they say, "take the time it takes so it takes less time!" - erasing a bad experience takes five times as long as it does to give them a slow and good experience in the first place, if not longer.
We had another big change today - we moved barns. I didn't speak about it before, but ever since the failed roundpenning attempt, there has been awkwardness and some bad blood at the barn. Immy was tagged as a nuisance following this, and was blamed for a few incidents that she had little or nothing to do with. (A gelding chased a filly into a fence repeatedly, and Immy was blamed for it, because supposedly the gelding fell in love with her? The girl that witnessed it said that my mares were getting chased by the gelding too, but the next day I was told that it was Imogen's fault. I don't know. One of a few incidents.) Being at the barn was stressful and awkward, and we all were getting increasingly unhappy. Immy's interaction with the other people at the barn was sending her into an emotional tailspin. I had already been considering hightailing it out of there when the BO texted me and said that she needed to downsize on her boarders due to unforseen circumstances, and wanted to give them all a head's up. I volunteered straight up to leave as soon as I could, and frankly I couldn't wait to get out of there. It is a risk you take when you move to a new barn - no matter how pretty the facilities are, you just never know what kind of a situation it is going to end up being. I feel relieved to be out... very, very relieved. It wasn't worth the stress.
The girls are now in a situation that had been offered to me long ago, but I never took until now. They have a big paddock (with an awesome shed) all to themselves, and have all the high quality tim/orchard they could possibly want. Best of all, they both stay for free so long as I help feed the other two horses on the property!
Girls dressed and ready to leave the other facility and head to their new home:
They look so snazzy in Gogo's light blue stuff! Quincy's things were all red, and Metro's things were all purple, but light blue is my choice from Gogo on!
I haven't posted it yet, but I have a few yearly goals made up for Imogen! These are more or less set in stone, except for when they aren't. Especially with a horse like Immy, her state of mental being will dictate where we are in terms of goal completion more than anything. If something is going to be too much for her, we will work on it in stages, but we're not pushing for anything. We have time, and we'll get there.
1) Make bridling a total non-event!
2) Be able to body clip by next winter - including bridle path and face!
3) Be going W-T-C decently by the end of Feburary
4) Be jumping small things by June
5) Be able to attend an event (schooling) by the end of December
I think it is lofty, but doable. By going W-T-C, I don't mean able to jump out and go do a great dressage test, I mean going comfortably and confidently with rhythm relaxation at all three gaits. I think, with that in place, it will be perfectly doable to be jumping little bitty bits by June. The big goal is to be able to attend a schooling show by the end of the year - and there are loads of schooling shows in the area to choose from! Again, as always, this is going to be dictated by her more than anything - if she isn't ready for something, she won't be pushed. So long as we are making forward progress, I will be happy no matter what.
1) Be going W-T (and maybe try a little C?) by the end of the month, in the roundpen (maybe try a little in the arena, depending on how she does)
2) More desensitization with the clippers!
3) Have dentistry done
4) Pull entire mane
5) Continue with the theme of relaxation - in everything we do!
There are also a few cavalletti at the new place... I think it is about time to start using them!