The Horde and I are all getting rather bored and irritated with walking.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy groundwork; I like watching them think and learning about the differences in how each horse’s brain works, and it is a great opportunity to learn more about each individual horse’s body language. For example, when Baby Thun’s lips twitch, he’s usually relaxing and on the brink of licking and chewing. But when Magic’s lips twitch, he’s annoyed and will either explode or figure it out in the next few seconds.
Still, there is more to a trained adult horse’s life than walking around on the end of a lead, and they’re starting to get antsy and hyper. Especially Magic, of course; working with him is rather interesting because his agile mind seizes any problem and solves it with gusto just for something to do, but allow him to trot two steps and his brain evaporates into a leaping, bucking frenzy because he is just SO HAPPY TO MOOOOOOOOOVE. Even Thunder and Arwen, normally the quieter types, are starting to want to drag me around on the lead rein and everyone regularly charges around in their pastures like a bunch of total idiots.
I am still putting their downtime to good use by refining everyone’s groundwork. Magic has so far been a resounding success; one more session with the pressure halter later and he now ties up without any brain evaporations. We also talked about plastic bags, which he was completely fine with to my surprise until he got bored and started randomly spooking at them just for something to do. Arwen and I went for a slow little hack, practicing long steady stretches of shoulder-in, some collected trot, and tight little leg-yields. She was so hot it was like riding a stick of dynamite, but it did make her really use her bottom and as a result her collected work was superb.
Thun and I can work marginally harder as he is in the third week following his shot, so we can add in a little bit of lope and some more jog. We had a lesson with the Mutterer, during which I borrowed a pair of his awesome Western rowelled spurs. Firstly, they make you sound cool when you walk (come on, they do, admit it) and secondly, they seemed to make a lot of sense to Baby Thun. At one point he was reining back at speed, nose on the vertical, a loop in the reins, just responding to my dragging the spurs gently down his ribs. Apparently the spinning rowel makes more sense to him than just my dressage spur or boot heel. We also did a few rollbacks, during which I appreciated Thunder’s awesome butt; he has the strength to leap into a gallop from a dead halt with one powerful lunge. He slid a little into one stop, but because of our (nonexistent) arena surface, proper sliding isn’t an option right now.
And today it was everyone-gets-into-the-horsebox day. I was really hoping to get Magic walking right up next to me, since last time I managed to load him alone with the bum rope and walking right on is the next step. He refused to load at first, looking worried but not exploding, so I put the bum rope on and we had to talk about that for a while. He obviously hates the sensation of the rope around his haunches and cow-kicked a few times before he gave up and stepped forward. I released the pressure, and he resigned himself to his fate and got on. Once we had loaded with the rope once or twice he started to take it as a game and then I knew he was going to be fine. Indeed he was; in the end he was walking on, standing still, and walking calmly off like an old hand, although I have to hold my hand up beside his nose as he unloads in case he tries to leap off the ramp. It would be such a typical Magic thing to do.
Skye loaded without incident as usual, and Thunder did not improve on his previous attempt at loading. Considering the previous attempt was absolutely foot perfect, I don’t mind. The dear daft animal loves to load because it involves being near his person and the prospect of carrots.
Arwen disappointed me slightly by refusing to load at first, then, with the bum rope, loading and flying back. I honestly thought we’d solved that one. I was a bit firmer with the rope and more or less dragged her on, through and out of the front ramp once, and after that she was back to her usual easy-loading self. Arwen is a horrible traveller, so I think these monthly loading sessions without going anywhere are essential to keep her loading well. She can hardly be blamed for not wanting to load if she travels each time she loads, considering how deeply she hates travelling. Because she has such separation anxiety, I do suspect that the worst thing about travelling for her is just being alone. Since I’m hoping to take her and Magic to shows together in the coming year, I suppose we’ll find out. Maybe Skye can play travelling companion to her herdbound grey friend.