Friday 28 January 2022

Sass = Spooky

 It's the time of year when finding some incentive to ride has been a problem.

There's been a myriad of reasons - weather (it's either freezing cold or above-average warm but also freezing rain), roads have been terrible this year (I've never seen as many vehicles on their roof in the ditch as I have this year), car problems (very expensive car problems), and well, this week, my uterus remembered that it exists (it forgot for a while).

I had three and a half pretty good rides on Cisco a couple of weeks ago. The half-good ride was because we started one ride in the arena by ourselves for the first time this year, which meant that Cisco was on high alert for anything that might kill him. Like the yellow and black quad parked in the corner, that was most definitely a tiger that was getting ready to pounce - especially once Cisco kicked up some dirt into the boards as we passed it. After I told him how brave he was for passing it, sure enough, a real-live tiger (orange kitty) entered the arena through a hole in the overhead door in the scary end, which in Cisco's little brain, justified all of his concerns.

Cisco creeping me from the shelter.

Thankfully, we are at the stage of training where once a bit of energy has been expelled, his brain slows down and Cisco is able to focus and we can generally have a pretty good second half of the ride. I mean, he still looks for reasons to gtfo and takes a mile if you give an inch in the scary end, but we can get stuff done.

After that ride, the temperatures plummeted so I didn't do anything with him for a week, at which point I decided it would be a good night to do some groundwork. 

Because Cisco tends to be worried when in the arena by himself, I like to do groundwork that activates his brain and focuses on finding relaxation. I use a lot of TRT method stuff. If I leave Cisco to his own devices he just does dizzy circles in front of the exit gate and barely uses any of the arena. 

It was a really good night to do groundwork. Someone had hauled in and was working on some roping (not on cows though). Keeping Cisco focused and seeking relaxation even though a rope was thwacking into a plastic block was a really good exercise for him, and we had some really good results. Which all went out the window when they left through the back door and loaded onto the unseen, but very much heard, trailer behind the arena.

Apparently, holding one's phone up to take a picture also looks like the cue for smiling, which results in a bunch of silly photos.

This brings us to today's ride. I figured that homeboy would have a bit of excess sass after almost two weeks off, but I had timed it right and there were two other horses in the arena, which usually means I'm in for a chill ride. 

I hopped on, Cisco walked about 5 steps, stopped dead, stared into the far end, and grew a hand taller. 

The water truck was driving past the end of the arena (outside), and Cisco could see the wheels moving through the 4" gap under the overhead door. Cue instant panic. 

He stopped and wouldn't walk forward. This was a different reaction than normal. Usually, he keeps moving and just tries to exit stage left (or right depending on which is the shortest path to the exit gate).

Cue tiny circles. 

Cisco's mode of spooking is to lock his neck straight and drop a shoulder to scoot. My way of dealing with it is to take his neck away and bring his head way to the inside and make him follow his nose on a small circle. It also relates to the TRT groundwork patterns. Not being able to lock his neck means that he can't scoot off. 

We followed the TRT way of dealing with a horse that doesn't want to go into the spooky corner. Circle left, right, left, then loosish rein to walk forward. He starts thinking about gtfo'ing, back to a few circle, and walk forward again. Rinse and repeat until they have taken you into the scary part. A bit of the right is easy/wrong is hard method.

And it worked. Quite well, actually. There were some sticky moments on the way, and it took probably 7 or 8 minutes, but we made it to the end, and once there, Cisco realized that there were in fact no horse-eating monsters waiting to pounce, and from then on, we were able to to go down there every time without many issues - Cisco kept his guard up, just in case they were hiding.

This horse is such a dork.

Considering how the ride started, I was pretty happy with how it ended. There was one sarcastic canter transition in the scary end, which involved a buck or two, but since I had had an Advil and a Tylenol that morning (thanks to my uterus) I had no back pain and my butt was glued to the saddle so his antics didn't faze me at all. Otherwise, he tried pretty hard to manage his excess energy and gave me some good efforts.

The goal is to get a couple more rides in now that I've ridden the sass down a bit. Next week isn't looking great for riding, between more cold weather arriving, another expensive repair to my car (hopefully the last one for a long while), and a clinic booked for the arena over the weekend, Cisco might get another week off, and we'll be right back to a sassy, spooky pony.

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