Sunday, February 6, 2011

A blustery day

Today was a blustery, gray day for a walk, but after spending the whole week stuck inside (well, other than to do chores) because of two big exams, I really wanted to get out and walk Sage this weekend. I may have mentioned that I've kind of decided to suspend riding anymore until after this baby business is through, but that doesn't mean she can't take walks, which are really good for the both of us.

Patrick joined us and took some pictures, which was great! He was freezing, though, because Sage is SLOW and for the first part of the walk (which is mostly uphill) she dragged at the end of the lead rope as usual. We planned to walk up through the big grass seed field up to our cousin's mom's house--a few miles round trip. Last summer, her hundred year old house burned down, and now we are enjoying the progress of the new house being built.

Though Sage is normally quite sedate, she does have a tendency to throw small temper tantrums every so often involving some head tossing or spooking. After all, she is still pretty green. And despite what I may say about what she did today, she was really very good, and I think the walk was an excellent experience for both of us.

First of all, it was pretty windy. The result of the wind rushing through the trees was that it constantly sounded like there was a large vehicle coming up behind us. And once we got up to the vineyard, there were guys working on pruning the grapes and there was a jacket hanging off one of the posts that really got her snorting. We went up to investigate, and she was fine if just a bit jumpy. But Patrick had walked across the street to take a picture, and for some reason when he turned around to come back toward us, Sage got surprised and tried to bolt back home. I almost lost her, but the footing wasn't great and she didn't get me off balance, so when she hit the end of the rope I was able to bring her around.

Though she was subsequently a bit riled up, she was content in a few moments to sniff the mailboxes as she normally does. She loves mailboxes, for some reason. And off we went further up the road, slow once more. I'm always careful because there's just a lot of open space up there, and for a young horse that I just pull out of the pasture after not really doing anything with, I could see how it is tempting for her. But she has to learn, and I'd rather her learn while I'm NOT in the saddle!

Patrick would even try to sneak up behind her and get her a bit riled up, but she was pretty good. She got nervous walking through treed areas, but it was really quite loud. And she's not "used" to trees in the sense that there are NO trees where she comes from and she's just accustomed to the ones in her "safe" pasture.

When we got to the top of the hill, it was pretty windy, and Sage was less than motivated to walk (although she was quite happy to eat grass once we reached the house and were taking the time to look at it). Still, she was a trooper. Construction equipment, plywood, blowing flags, big deal.

After a few minutes looking at the house, we headed back down the field. Sage is usually just about as motivated to walk back as she is to leave, but the wind seemed to have gotten a bit worse, and she was feeling like getting home. She was good for quite a while, but she just felt antsy, so we got back out onto the gravel road where I felt like the footing was a bit more secure. As the wind whipped through these two big trees shading the road, Sage decided she had had enough. She did her little nippy thing where she tries to grab my arm, and I think because she knew she would get in trouble, she immediately backed away. But then, out of frustration, she reared up in the air and just stood there for a second, her front hooves just above my head. When she came down, she tried to bolt forward, but I was ready and swung her around.

Patrick was hoping to get a picture of this incident, but she didn't try it again; I told her "NO" quite sharply and backed her up about twenty feet. I felt as though a little bit of "punishment" was warranted because I know that it wasn't a sudden moment of fear that caused her behavior, but rather her desire to ditch me and head home by herself.

We worked on backing, head down, and whoa for several hundred more yards, and she calmed down very quickly. There was lots of licking and chewing.

And even though the men at the vineyard scared her again on the way down, we did not experience another outburst and walked calmly the rest of the way. When we got back into her paddock, we worked some more (so as to let her know that she doesn't just get to go home and be off the hook). We did a bit of "lunging" on the lead rope (which she actually did quite well for the first time) and some more backing.

Overall, I was quite pleased. It was a tough day for a baby horse, and she rose to the occasion. We both learned a lot. Like I've said before, it's good for her to challenge me so that she can learn what the right answer is in each situation.

When we were finished, Willy the cat came to hang out for a minute. Aren't they cute?

Also, look how she stands tied now!

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