Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tackling the stream of doom

Yesterday and today were much better for me than earlier in the week. I rode Charlie both days, and it was perfect and sunny outside. We had such a good time. I decided to try out my new (old) western saddle and I really like it! It looks snazzy, with a little bit of silver bling, and is very comfortable. Plus even though I wasn't originally keen on the orange-y leather, I must say it looks really nice on a chestnut.

Got my new saddle pad in the mail too, as well as Charlie's boots, so of course I had to try out the whole ensemble (who cares that they are "techinically" jump boots?). The pad is wool on the bottom, which I picked especially for Mister Sensitive Skin, and the withers are cutback to allow ample clearance.

The cutout is perfect
Obviously I've chosen blue for his color
Our lesson for yesterday and today centered around water. Charlie has historically had a thing about crossing water. We've done it, and he's waded into a lake before, but he's not too happy whenever he has to get his toes wet so it's been a constant slow battle and one I haven't had the opportunity to work on in awhile. Now that spring is here, though, and the water is running off the mountain there are several little streams around the barn that are perfect for breaking him in and desensitizing him.

Le Petit Brook aka the Stream of Doom
Yesterday after a nice hack I decided to approach the water for the first time in six months. As soon as Charlie saw it he stopped dead and then proceeded to tray all of his tricks: spinning, snorting, walking sideways while his head is turned the other direction, backing up, half-heartedly threatening to rear (oh no you don't!)....every time he decided to give me attitude I added leg and kissed to him and made him move in some other direction of my choosing and as soon as his feet would stop moving I'd "sit chilly" (as my trainer used to say).

After several moments of calm I'd ask him to step forward again. There is a very fine line with Charlie between being assertive and being bossy, but I've learned pretty well how to ride the balance and how far I can push him, how to stay light in my hands and seat while still maintaining authority. 

If we got one step in the correct direction we stopped and he got praised. If he protested we did hindquarters over or we practiced back-forward-back-forward or serpentines until his feet stopped moving. Eventually we made it within ten or twelve feet of the stream, which was an accomplishment, but not quite good enough. 

So I gave him a pat for being brave up to that point and hopped off since I knew it wasn't worth battling more from in the saddle; we wouldn't get much further and he'd just get frustrated. With a little coaxing, and relying on our ground training work to drive him forward, I was able to get him right to the edge and very slightly dip his nose in the water. I let him drink and play for a few minutes and then hopped back on. We walked a few feet back up the trail, then turned around back toward the stream and I was able to get him within five feet of the edge that time. Good enough for Day 1.

Ok, I guess I can put my nose in
Today we marched right back down there (well, we had a little canter in the field first) and I immediately was able to get him to the 12-feet mark from the day before without much fuss. Try as I might, though, I couldn't get him too much closer. However, this time when I got off and asked him to walk forward he was much more confident and as soon as he sniffed the water and I kissed for another step, he walked right in! I was standing on the bank and not in the saddle but who cares? My horse was standing with all four feet in the stream, calm as anything. 

One foot in.....

"You want me to do what?!"
Success! Now that wasn't so bad
We stood for a good five minutes, I let him play and do whatever he wanted, and then I asked him to come out, mounted up, and we went home.

Next time we'll try walking in without me having to dismount.


  1. Good boy, sometimes its very small baby steps, not big leaps that make the best progress.

  2. Awesome job building up his confidence!