Wednesday, November 3, 2010

10/31/10 Harley Moves On

Rewarding Ransom for his service and efforts at Hearthstone, I walked him gently to his paddock. "Week off, sweetheart. Your shoes are loose, your toes are too long, and you've done well. Rest up, dear. We'll pick it back up on Friday or Saturday."

I retrieved Harley from his pasture with minimal effort. He licked and chewed as I latched the halter. Interesting, maybe he's starting to be happy to see me halter in-hand. I took him to the trailer, and with only a little fuss, got the fly spray on, got him groomed, legs wrapped. He moved off when he saw the saddle, I suspect a little disappointed we weren't only going to lunge lightly.

Saddled, with the bridle, lunge line, elbow pull, helmet, all in-hand, we wandered out to the arena. Harley hesitated a few times, I suspect thinking about some previous arena battles we've had. I made sure my gloves were on tight.

He bounced off on the lunge line from his halter, at a lofty little trot, tail extended. However, that didn't last long, before the burst of energy ran out, and he settled into a nice easy trot, asking for walk at every opportunity. After five minutes out on the free line, I put his bridle on, and added the elbow pull. It's a little too long to get a good result, and I'm either going to need to make another one, or add some knots by the clips, to shorten it a bit. Nevertheless, with it rigged up, he still had to lower his head & neck some at the walk, and plenty at the trot. When Harley found the release and held it a few trot strides each way, I stepped in front of the drive line. "Shhh", I told him, and he stopped quick, facing me. He walked towards me, licking and chewing. The look in his eye was honest, "I'm ready, Lady. Let's do whatever you came out here to do, because for all the stuff we've got here, I suspect you want to ride me. C'mon already, and do it."

Helmet on, I did what I always do before I put a foot in the stirrup with Harley. I prayed for a safe ride, and a quiet mind, for both of us. I asked him to walk on, and he obliged. Within no time, we settled into a rhythm, his legs and my hips. I walked him quite a while, until he started to remember that the bit meant turn, and I started to remember "direct rein only." See, too many rides on Romeo neck reining, I've picked up this habit of laying the indirect rein while tapping the direct rein. For Mo, that works - because I'm also using leg pressure. Harley, however, hasn't made the full connection of leg, to neck, to hand. We figured each other out turning at the walk, and I asked him to halt, seat and voice. With zero rein pressure, Harley came to a gentle stop.

With my bravery on all-out, I asked for walk, clucked to him, and squeezed my legs briefly. tap tap tap, Harley's head popped up and his body pushed into the trot. Bounce Bounce Bounce. He headed into an extended, slightly scared trot, and as I lifted my body into the posting trot, Harley's head came up. I slowed my post, and tried to post the tempo trot I wanted, not what I had. I bumped the inside rein, and he dropped his head with a heavy sigh. "Good job, Harley. That's what I want." I kept a light contact with my outside rein, bumping the inside rein only when he lifted his head. His nose wasn't flexed in, but at least his head was relaxed. Baby steps.

Our total time together came to about 40 minutes when we reached the trailer. I'd met a new goal - we're no longer working in Harley's pasture, but now out in the arena. The arena fence needs mending, again, so had we parted company, it would've been a long tedious retrieval. But Harley seems to understand his job - do what I ask, try hard at what he doesn't know, and the release will come.

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