Anyone who works with horses, or any animal for that matter, will know that you have good days and bad days. I find that more often than not, the really good days are the ordinary days and today was certainly one of these for me and Scottie!
It was extremely hot this afternoon at the yard. I got hot mucking out and got sweaty walking to the field to get Scottie and Jojo in. My initial plans of riding were quickly melting away. After Jojo was completely dramatic to come in from the field, leaping in the air and galloping off down the field, leadrope flying, with a rather confused Scottie trotting half-heartedly after her I decided I just wasn’t in the mood to school in our sun trap of an arena.
So once I had both the horses on the yard, I tried to decide what to do with Scottie as I knew I had to do something. My riding plan had been to lay some poles out in interesting ways. Since we have jumping camp in less than a month, I am trying to include poles in nearly all our schooling sessions just to normalise it a bit more and hopefully stop the silliness. So I decided to lay some poles out and lead Scottie over them in hand. I thought about lunging him over them, but he is easier to chase over something on the lunge than he is to lead over something, so I thought leading over would probably be more challenging.
I laid out these two collections of poles:
The Red and Blue zig zag can be ridden (or in my case led) several ways, as shown below. I started with the green arrows. It means Scottie has time to see each and every pole and get an idea of what is coming next. After we walked over these a few times with no drama at all, I moved onto the diagram with the brown arrows. This is a diagram I love to ride as you really have to think. Realistically your circles between poles are only going to be about 10m, probably even smaller. Because of this you have to really concentrate and make sure your horse is balanced and listening to you. However, leading Scottie at a walk over these was fairly easy still.
After the circle exercise, I moved on to the Green and Red poles. Again, this is something I expected Scottie to have a real look at, and I certainly think he would question it if I was riding him over it. However, he was absolutely fine over these poles and happily walked through them without a fuss.
Because everything was going so well I decided to take the direct route over the Blue and Red poles. Again, Scottie did this without a fuss. So after doing these last two exercises a few more times I stopped and thought to myself, well what now? We could have only been in the school for 10 mins, if that and Scottie had taken everything amazingly. So I decided to try doing some of it in trot.
Scottie generally trots up very well in hand, so after a quick trot down the longside to check he was listening, I turned him into the Red and Blue poles and followed the green arrow route. He was perfect. So I turned him into the Red and Green poles. And again, he was perfect. So I lined us up and trotted down the direct route of the Red and Blue poles, Perfect!
After trotting round all these things a few more times I was exhausted and decided to call it a day. I didn’t know what else we could do. Although I’m now thinking some inhand raised poles and cross poles could be a good idea.
As I was leaving the school, another lady on the yard was bringing her horse back in from doing some loading practice. Now Scottie travels well, but over the past year or so, loading has become a bit of an issue. Well, he is dramatic about going on until someone stands behind him and he usually walks straight on! But I thought since the lorry was out, I would make use of it and practice our loading.
I grabbed a large scoop of grass nuts and put them inside the lorry before tucking a few in my pocket. I clipped on Scottie’s lunge line and led him towards the ramp. Now Scottie has been on this lorry a few times now and he seems to be happy enough in it and loaded pretty well last time (no chasing needed!) But I still expected to have a bit of drama and probably need to call in some help at some point, but once again he completely surprised me.
We walked up to the ramp and stopped to smell it. I took a step or two onto the ramp and after a good sniff Scottie put his front feet on. I crept up a bit further and so did he. I gave him some of the treats before I stepped into the lorry. He took one more step before backing back off the ramp again. He wasn’t dramatic about it, just calmly backed off and tried to wander off.
So we tried again. He put a couple of feet on and I let out the line so I could reach the scoop of grass nuts in the back of the lorry. This caught his attention and he walked slowly up the ramp to join me. He walked round me and stood at the edge of the lorry, but inside the lorry, eating the grass nuts. I gave him a big pat and walked him off the lorry, feed scoop in hand.
We turned round and walked back up the ramp with very little hesitation and further into the lorry. Again he walked around me and stood eating for 10-20 seconds before I led him off again. We repeated this a few more times until I had him standing all the way in the lorry. I poked his bum and shoulders to get him inside where the partitions would be and let him eat the grass nuts. If I had a way of securing the scoop I think I could have tied him up and shut him in all by myself! Which is something I don’t think I would have ever been able to do before, especially not on lorries as he has always tried to turn round and come off if you’re not quick with the partition!
I am really super pleased with him and hopefully this means that we shouldn’t have too much drama trying to load him in a different 3.5 ton lorry for camp in a few weeks! Now we just need to keep practising our jumping so we are nice and confident and hopefully have more good days while we are there!