I have an ASB sporthorse type mare, Chey. We normally jump, never showing but hunter/jumper type stuff. She loves her job and loves jumping. Lately, I have been really stressing her using herself, as she had a week off not too long ago while I was out of town and so, coming back, I have had to really work to keep her using herself, and to top it off, we have been stuck in the indoor. As a result, she isn't enjoying her job as much as normal, since it has actually been work.
Today, she pretended I wasn't tacking her up as we got ready, which for her is a sign we should have a fun ride to get her brain back in the game. Normally for these days, we will go hack out in a field and do hill work and some galloping. Today, it was raining. I didn't want to jump today, so I was left trying to come up with some activty in our smallish indoor to try and remind Chey she likes work. I briefly considered an obstical course, but didn't want to have to set up and take down something that big, and I only had cones and jumps and couldn't do much with that in any case. I took the cones and set up a "pole bending" pattern, but then decided that was just a glorified serpintine, and not what Chey needed. So, I decide to set up a tiny, cone, barrel pattern. I figure it is something I have never done with her before, so at least it is new and different, and then I get on.
My suspisions about Chey's attitude are confirmed when she spooks at the cones. Spooking is her favorite evasion. A little while later, she spooks at a pile of jumping blocks, the same ones we jump over regularly. I get her refocused and warm up quickly, hoping my distraction works. We go to the "start line" (another cone) and halt. I ask for a trot and away we amble! After the first cone, Chey realizes she has no idea what is going on and gets a bit interested, the next two go well and I ask her to extend on our way back to start and she trucks along! And, it turns out, that is all it took for her to learn the pattern.
We halt at the start line, and I ask for the canter. Chey locks on the first cone and that is that. I simply suggest the rest the pattern and she goes great. I pat her and let her rest while a friend tries. Right after they finish, Chey perks up and walks over to the starting cone and halts, staring straight at the first cone, so we went again. My friend and I took turns a couple more times, flipping what cone we started on and both horses got really into it. After, we went back to rail, and I reminded Chey that sometimes we canter past the cones without spinning around them, and then start to cool out on a loose rein, just sort of wandering around the ring. Chey wanders staight to the start cone, turns and stops, and stares at the first cone in the pattern. I just laugh, and she turns around and nudges my leg into her side and starts to walk. I think she was hoping that counted as a cue. Unfortunately for her, we just finished cooling down.
For the rest of the night, anytime I started walking towards the indoor, she would start nickering. It makes me want to find some little gymkhana to take her to and let her play. Anyway, just thought I would share a story of a happy horse.
The Procrastinators Anonymous meeting has been postponed again.