I am happy to report that I am somewhat, more or less, on the mend, and am back in the saddle on a partly limited basis. The one getting the most focus this week has been O, but everyone has been working and all have been doing well - actually, P-mare has been the most obnoxious and belligerent of them all. She got reminded several times that she is almost 17 year old, damnit, and that she ought to be acting more her age!
Monday, O-Ren got a walk-trot ride, P-mare got a bareback hack around the field, and Immy got a lunge (my ankle was too sore for a third ride). The entire reason I ended up with O was because she would not go forward when you put your leg on, and would go no faster than a walk - when you put your leg on her, she would outright stop, make a face, look at your leg with annoyance, and pick up a foot. Basically, in all horsey ways possible, she would tell you to go to H and back. Since she has been here, the problem has completely changed from 'no go' to 'no stop'! I have NO problem with her going forward - she just wants to do everything her own way, and tells you that constantly. On Monday, she was HOT and about ready to pop a cork the entire ride. Things got interesting on the far end of the pasture (I went with S and her big yellow horse) when we spotted a rabbit on the other side of the pasture fence. "Look out," S told me. "That rabbit might jump out and spook her." I had no sooner located the rabbit when S shrieked, "OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT SNAKE! MOVE, IT'S HEADED RIGHT FOR YOU!" I looked down in alarm to see a HUGE 6 foot snake slithering at high speed directly for O's hind legs, and for my dog. When you see a giant snake in Texas, you automatically assume it is a rattlesnake, and you GET OUT OF THE WAY. I booted O forward in alarm, called Monster Dog, and we all took off on the other direction. S's husband came out and shot the thing, and we discovered it was not a rattler after all, just the biggest chicken snake on the planet. (It literally was longer than I am tall). I felt sort of bad that a harmless snake had to die, but you can't take chances - if it was a poisonous one that close to the house and any one of us or any one of the animals got bitten, we'd be in huge trouble. Texas is a scary, pokey, poisonous, stinging, sharp, prickly venomous place to be - everything that lives here either stings, bites, or stabs in defense!
O quieted down somewhat during our ride, which was an improvement over the ride before. We trotted around for awhile at the top of the big field, and I let her have her head as much as I dared. She likes to curl her neck and avoid the bit, but spends a lot of time chomping on it necessarily. She'll go out to a contact, but she'll just as quickly root out against it, grab the bit, twist her head, invert, curl under... all manner of fun evasions. Thankfully, the teeth grinding does seem to be a one-time thing, since it has not happened again, and she was able more or less to stand quietly for a little bit when we stopped. (I know she has it in her to be quiet... at mealtimes when she gets tied up, she started off when she first arrived being a total hellion, thrashing around, chewing on the pipe, and pawing the moment she finished, and now she stands with a foot cocked and goes to sleep when she is finished. Patience, patience, patience.) I called it a day after she made some small effort to relax... that in and of itself was already an improvement.
I did somehow think that adding in a third mare would temper the psycho-attachment issues the mares have, but in reality it has somewhat compounded the problem. Here are Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum totally about to totally lose their marbles when I took P out to ride:
The second I turned to leave, they both panicked, galloping around their pen in total hysteria and screaming their heads off. They had NO idea what to do without P there.
Mares, seriously. Perhaps there is a de-vocalization surgery I can look into...
On Tuesday, P-mare had double babysitting duty. We started off the day with a 2-hour early morning ride out in the big cattle pasture, S on her yellow horse and myself on P with O ponied alongside. O had never ponied before that I know of, but she took to it perfectly well. P, on the other hand, got a wild hair after a giant wolf-size coyote came bouncing out of the brush in front of us, and I had to hand O-Ren off to S for a bit while I reinstalled some steering and brakes on P. She was a total turd... I have no idea what got into her.
P was pretty pooped by the time we got home.
That evening, there was a barrel race that S wanted to go to, so we loaded up her yellow horse and both P and Immy, and off we went. I was going to just take Immy, but on second thought I wasn't sure how she would handle the loudspeakers, so I brought P along for good measure, just in case. I needn't have worried - Immy was a TOTAL angel and spent most of the time asleep, or following placidly along. P, on the other hand, was wide awake and raring to go, and I had to school her AGAIN and remind her that rearing and charging off after the yellow horse whenever he left was not an acceptable thing to do. I had a simple snaffle in, but even that was ticking her off to no end, so I switched to a thin bosal that S had in her trailer, and she did much better with that. What can I say, the mare hates bits and always has, good dentistry and soft hands be darned.... she just goes way better bitless, and since she is now mostly relegated to babysitting duties, I don't really bother with bits anymore.
Immy really was perfect. She went to sleep while horses were running the pattern, and didn't even wake up when a train went by!! Next time, she goes without P!
On Wednesday, O was the chosen child for work due to other time constraints. S and I got up REALLY early, and were tacked up and on our way out to the big pasture by 7AM. O started off screaming for her friends and balking a bit, and even stopped for a moment and did her little kickout at my leg. That was the first time she had done it since she left her old property, and thankfully it only lasted a second - one cluck from me and she moved right on. (Mostly, she just needs to be reminded constantly that she is not the decision-maker in this relationship! She was allowed to do whatever she wanted before, whenever she wanted, so being told NO is a big thing for her.)
Once out in the big field, she was hot and springy, but mostly held herself together. When she gets bored, or stops paying attention to the things around her, she likes to curl her neck up and play aggressively with the bit, so I may play around with bits that have fewer fun jingly moving parts to them. (Currently she's in a thin 3-piece loose ring snaffle... so it moves and jingles a LOT!) She crossed two muddy streams with no hesitation, but had some total freakouts when S's horse was headed one way and I asked her to head in another. I got tired of her high energy at some point, and said, okay, we're just going to trot and keep trotting until you simmer yourself down. And off we went.
And we trotted, and trotted, and trotted, and trotted. She started out with every evasion in the book - twisting her head and going sideways, slowing down, grabbing the bit and speeding up, tossing her head - but I just sat chilly and gave her X length of rein and X speed that she had to be going. She bounced all over the place between those parameters, but I just ignored her and kept on going. And I'll be darned if that mare finally didn't just knock it off and start reaching out to the bit and settling down. Once she figured out that all that excess energy that was going into trying to figure out how to take control of the situation wasn't worth it, she stopped trying and let me dictate instead. When she was good, she got heavily praised. We even tried a little canter, and it went beautifully.
Obviously, there is a LONG way to go with a mare like this who has been allowed to control everything her entire life, but this is VERY promising for only a few rides. Mostly, she just needs consistency and wet saddle pads. Lots and lots of them.
(Yes... embrace the sleepy, red mare. Embrace it!)
Today a huge cold front and some nasty storms came stomping across the state, so everything was too muddy and miserable for rides. It is going to be 33 tonight.... WHAT IS GOING ON? I am not sure what winter is playing at here, but I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be gone at LEAST two months ago. Apparently I was wrong!