I put up my new roundpen 2 weeks ago, on April 24th, with the help of my Dad. Which was great, because those panels are heavy. Especially the gate section.
New is relative in this case, as my Aunt had the pen for years, but she gave it to me last fall, before I even knew I was getting horses this year, so it’s new to me.
We set it up, and I let the girls get used to it.
I don’t really know much about their training. The owner didn’t really do any training, as she pretty much didn’t know about horses. They were trained by professional trainers, so I don’t have much background.
I know that Sophie did some reining, and even competed some, until she had some sort of a leg problem which made it so that she couldn’t do the sliding stops and that. It sounds like Isis was trained a lot less, but I’m not entirely certain.
So now to figure them out.
I decided to try riding Sophie, just for the heck of it. Thought I’d see what she seemed to think about it, and go from there. I was ready to back up a little if she seemed upset by it, but she didn’t seem too worried.
She has a bit of the attitude of a school horse, where she knows what is up, and knows well how to behave, but doesn’t really feel like doing it. She is always trying to avoid work, not by being terrible, but by being lazy. I go to put a halter on her, and she walks away, just one step ahead of me. No biting or kicking, just staying out of my reach.
I only rode for a short time, and found out that I need to close the gate so the minis can’t come close to the roundpen while we’re working. They enjoy scratching their butts on the panels or charging at Sophie as we pass. Fun times.
A couple of minutes (honestly, my timing was great) after I dismounted, untacked, and put everything away, it started to rain.
And it rained for nearly a week and a half.
The entire pasture was a swamp, the only part not churned up by hooves was inside the roundpen, whose gate I had kept closed.
It looked so nice that I was, of course, aching to work with the girls. But I knew that I would just ruin the footing in there. So I waited.
On Friday, it was dry enough to put them in there, so I let them in to trim the grass, which had loved the rain.
When I went to hang out with them, Sophie did her lovely little trick of very deliberately walking away from me.
It occurred to me that we were in a roundpen, and this was the perfect location to address that little issue.
I have had good success with various horses over the years, using the “Ok, if you want to move when I want you to stand still, then you can move until I let you stand still” method. I have no idea what it is actually called (if anything), but the idea is, if the horse keeps walking away when you try to approach it, you ask it to move, and continue moving until you tell it to stop. Then you approach again. If it walks away again, you repeat. They understand that they get to rest if they let you approach, and if they’re brats, they have to work.
Disclaimer: I am not talking about running the horse ragged. This is much more about making them think, and understand cause and effect than it is about wearing them out so that they behave.
So I asked them to do a little lunging. I didn’t have a line or a whip, just used my hands and voice. And they responded much better than I expected.
I’ve done that a couple of times now, both on Friday, and Sunday. Both girls in the roundpen, no lines on them. Though, on Sunday, I had a rope to encourage them to keep moving. I need a lunge whip, and should be getting one this week.
It’s fun to watch their personalities shine through when I work with them at the same time. It’s funny, because Isis supposedly has less training, but she is much more responsive. I can start them out, and she will keep going with minimal encouragement, even if my full attention is not on her. Sophie, on the other hand, keeps watching me, to see if I’m focused on her. If I am not, she slows down, or stops.
Both respond very well to a “woah” command, even turning in toward me, which I appreciate.
And it’s interesting, because as much as Sophie acts like she hates working, she came up to me for attention this afternoon, after our lunging session, acting more like she wants to be friends than she has in the 3 1/2 weeks I have had her.