|Playing today in the rain! Notice the Natural Outline Progression.|
I am still in enjoying Florida and though I haven’t gotten to the Beach yet I have been playing with Mercury where he is boarding and enjoying our time time together. I thought it would be good to share how to be Creative when you may have what seems like limiting circumstances. I know many of you may have horses at a boarding facility and it does require creativity when playing with your horse if you are only able to work in tack or in a round pen.
Mercury, being a spirited horse and living a fairly confined routine posed the first set of challenges. Very deep sand footing, a tiny round pen and hot weather provided other challenges I did not anticipate.
So how do we adapt in these situations? As I wrote in the last post, I had to allow both Mercury and I to adapt to a very different routine then we are used to at home. It took me the first week to figure out how much this would affect Mercury. What would his energy levels be like? How would his body feel after standing around in a stall much more than usual? Only after I figured that out could I figure out what I should do each day with him. My concerns were making sure he moved enough to stretch and get his circulation going while not overheating him. This proved to be very difficult. He wanted to play and run and stretch. At home I would normally let him Liberty play more but this was proving to overheat him to levels I had not seen before. I had trace clipped his coat to help but it was not enough. He was fine with slow paced movement temperature-wise but it did not satisfy his desire to play and run. Each day I would see how much “play” he could handle and it was proving to be very little before he overheated. Each day I adapted my routine a bit different while still working with his energy needs but keeping his well-being at the forefront. There has been a lot of hosing before and after our sessions!
My Dressage coaching with Bettina Drummond helped me immensely with this scenario. She has helped me channel Mercury’s spirited energy into positive, fun ground work, collection, In Hand, and Mounted Dressage work. Instead of trying to block this energy as many people try to do with horses the likes of Mercury or otherwise, you channel and direct the energy positively. Mercury does his best Piaffe and Passage work when he is in this state and this work satisfies his fire because it is expressive work. I used my Training Rein and Natural Outline exercises and my In Hand exercises to warm him up and supple him in a low impact way. The deep sand footing is also very fatiguing and difficult for Merc to work in. It took some getting used too but probably has some strengthening benefits as long as I am careful. For this reason I did not use the tiny round pen. It has the deepest sand and is very small. I felt it was not good for his joints and tendons to be circling and playing in it.
Another challenge we are dealing with is a lot of distracting activity for Mercury. I have described him many times as the most ADD horse on the planet and he is living up to that here. This place is full of interesting sites, sounds and horses! I don’t blame him at all but have used the challenge to work on focus and attention. He is doing well because I know it is very difficult for him.
The exercises that I have relied on the most down here so far are Eye Contact and Leading from Behind when I can do Liberty Training. Otherwise I work a lot on Liberty Principles on Line which (if you haven’t been to a clinic or seen my videos on this) are taking the Liberty exercises to on line. I highly recommend these to people who board because you can do them while your horse is on lead and they yield a nice Connecting way of working on lead. They also don’t disturb others who may be working in the area with you. They can be done with food, on grass, in a ring or round pen/paddock.
In Hand work and Line work are very nice ways to play with warming up horses who may need just a bit of suppling and some strengthening, power and Natural Outline work if you can’t work at Liberty. As long as you stay true to the Connection it’s all good. Remember Connection starts with how we feel and think when we are around our horses. It is as simple as that.
I have one last experience to share this week about how easy it is to Connect with a horse. Mercury stables next to a very pretty Spotted Draft mare who he is quite taken with and rightfully so! I have been visiting with her when I go to Mercury. I have simply spoken to her and offered to share some of Mercury’s carrots with her (I figured he wouldn’t mind since he likes her) each time I am there. We have formed a connection over that simple ritual. Another young horse there “spoke” to me as I would walk through the barn. I could see he was having a difficult time in his training. I stop by his stall and Say Hello to him when I am there just to let him know he has a friend in the barn. I can tell he looks forward to that now and so do I.