My first week with Armani is almost over - and he's still alive! And still sound!!
It's been a very busy week with Alex in Whitehorse and me at the barn almost every night. Hazel thought I was the world's worst dog owner, despite getting an hour's walk through the woods in the morning Monday and Wednesday before work, and then putting her in daycare Tuesday and Thursday so she could stay home in the evening.
On Monday, I brought her with me to the barn because it's too dark now when I get home to take her to my off leash places - too creepy. At least at the barn I can walk around in the dark without being afraid of creeps in the bushes. There are coyotes but they don't bother people. After running around a bit I put her in the car and parked in my usual spot next to the arena. I got Armani and handwalked him around the arena so he could explore. When I was all done, I opened the back door expecting to see Hazel sleeping or sitting there quietly waiting for me. Instead she was curled into a ball with her tail between her legs, shaking. Her fur felt damp so she must have been panting up a storm. The best I can figure is the sound of the horses trotting and cantering in the arena must be a bit like thunder and/or fireworks. Poor girl, I think her fears are getting worse. Alex told me last week he was watching a war movie and realized she wasn't with him at some point. He found her hiding in the basement :-(
I knew I couldn't try that again on Wednsday so I gave up and stayed home. I mean, that's one of the advantages of indoor board, right? I was too tired to handle a car or a horse anyway.
I rode Thursday with a little more purpose than my first indoor ride and was of course rewarded with more focus from Armani in return. It is really fun to be so impressed with his maturity on one hand and then a minute later he'll do something that is classic baby. I'm enjoying learning these nuances about him.
I mostly worked on within- and- between gait transitions at the walk and trot, having him moving promptly off my leg, and not leaning on my inside leg through the turns. He finds it hard because he has to carry himself more than he's used to. I'm there supporting him but I am not going to hold him up by his face like he's been used to. I believe I had moments last night where he started to get that he could stretch down and relax while really working from his back end and the feeling was lovely. Fleeting, but I'll take it as a good sign on ride 2!
I need to start wearing my digital watch again so I can hit the timer when I start my ride. For some reason I cannot remember what time I start a ride if I'm wearing a regular watch. I feel like a simpleton but apparently I have to see actual numbers because I promptly forget where the heck the big hand was positioned when I started :-/
Friday night, Alex was home and wanted to come see his horse ;-) So we went and Armani was at the auto-waterer near the gate. Great!, I thought, I wouldn't have to trudge to the hay feeder to get him. I walked up to the gate, Armani took his face out of the water, took one look at me and trotted off to the hay. Argh!
But I laughed, figuring this was a good sign that he liked his increased turnout (he went from 7am-1pm to our 6am - 7:30/8pm winter schedule). I went to get him, no problem, and he lead in easily. The first couple days he was "sticky" coming in at night because any little movement would make him stop and look.
Today was another story. It was a complicated day with a dressage clinic going on. I planned to ride outside while the clinic was going on in the arena, and then watch my friend's ride. The second I got to the barn, I knew there was no way I was riding outside. WIND! Suck the life out of your bones kind of wind. It wasn't that cold but this time of year is the worst here because the air still holds a lot of humidity, making it feel a lot colder than the dry bulb temp would have you think.
Anyway, I ended up doing some scrapbooking. We make a scrapbook every year for the barn owners as a Christmas present. Then I watched my friend's ride while huddled in 6 layers of sweaters and jackets and double-wrapped in my wool cooler. By the end of the clinic I was feeling psyched to work with my baby but SO did not want to ride. I had been freezing for hours, it was getting dark, and I had not yet had Armani in the indoor alone.
I know riding alone is inevitable and I'm totally game and always say the horse has to learn to deal with having other horses come and go or none at all...I just wasn't sure I was in the right mental place to try it in the first week. I know he'd be fine but if I am wishy-washy than it will be ME that messes it up. I knew I was feeling wishy-washy.
Regardless, I did want to change Armani's blanket. Here is where you'll shake your head at me, probably. When I got to the barn and realized how windy it was, I knew Armani would probably be a bit cold since he was only out in a rainsheet (it's been warm during the day and he's in at night). I decided it would be a good day to stress his system a little, hoping he'll start growing a bit more coat. He's got nothing, given his turnout regime before.
Since I was there for hours, I spied on him lots. He spent most of the time by himself in or near the shelter while everyone else was at the hay. Sometimes his new best buddy (the outcast of the herd) would join him. Truthfully, I didn't see him at the hay for a little over 2 hours, whenever I looked, which was frequent but distant. I didn't let myself stress - there is still some grass (unpalatable now?) and I know from my farm spies that he's good at subversively grabbing hay when he wants to. So he was probably cold and hungry for a little while.
As soon as my friend's lesson ended, I went to bring Mani in so I could put a heavier blanket on him. I found him at the hay feeder, haltered and tried to lead him. He was very pissy about it. I managed to get him moving for a bit, then he put on the breaks again. I pushed a little and he threw his head up and then reared up and twisted away from me. I still easily had him on the lead, he wasn't really even pulling much on it, it was just such a surprise, I didn't think he had it in him! SO not ok!!!
We worked through it, slowly, and I brought him in, changed his blanket and turned him back out for a couple hours. Then I went to bring him in and has less of a fight but he still didn't want to come in at all. I'm not yet sure what is going on. My initial thought is that he had probably finally secured a place at the hay and I was taking him away. Also, I was taking him from his new buddy who lives outside 24/7.
Regardless of the 'why' he has to learn that he has to go where I lead him. I'm just a little unsure of myself when it comes to the best way to teach him this. Given his age and that he's likely still adjusting to his new life, I'm tempted to be kind and take all the time he needs. But another part of me is thinking I need to be strong during those moments so that he learns that listening to his handler is non-negotiable. I guess I'm just not sure which approach is the best to get the result I want.
We shall see what tomorrow brings.