Last Friday I had my first lesson with Skeeter. I anticipated doing ground work and I was not disappointed. Skeeter had only been with Jessica for about four days at that point, so I knew she wouldn't be at the riding point.
Apparently, Skeeter was not a good house guest her first two days there and ran like a mad woman. Jessica is persistent, though, and wore her down. Skeeter was just not interested in that strange woman bossing her around and chose to leave. A lot. For two days, she ran around her pen like a fool.
Eventually she realize that all that running was hard work and that standing nicely for Jessica was a whole lot easier. Of course, I didn't know all of that before I arrived for my lesson. Skeeter wasn't hard to halter (ok, with the exception of the Julie Goodnight thing), but she wasn't as good at is as when I first taught her. I take full responsibility for that. I taught her how to lower her head and she practically haltered herself at the beginning, but as she got better at it, I fell into my old livery habits and just threw the halter on her without reminding her to lower her head.
Turns out, I let a lot of my livery habits creep into training Skeeter and Jessica has had to un-do them. For one, we never circled or longed horses. Nope. We caught 'em, saddled 'em, and rode 'em. Rarely picked up (or picked out) their hooves. If they could lead and stand tied and not throw a rider they were good.
I just have to say "wow" at what Jessica has been able to do with Skeeter. We talked about what she had worked with her on. You know, after the two days of running around like a fool. As she was talking, Jessica was demonstrating and I couldn't believe what the black mare was able to do. It might not seem like a lot, but it was huge.
Jessica showed me how to have Skeeter lower her head and put her nose in the halter. I'd done that, but in a slightly different manner, but let it slip as I mentioned earlier. Then she showed me how she kept Skeets out of her space and got her circling. Skeeter wasn't the world's best circler after just a couple of sessions, but she was so light.
After Jessica showed me what they'd accomplished, she taught me how to do it. I have a lot of bad habits to break, but I'm so thrilled with how light and willing Skeeter is. I was happy with her before, but now I'm ecstatic. Jessica had to correct me a couple of times because I was confusing Skeeter, but by the end of the lesson I started to get it.
We talked about how much Skeeter hated fly spray. I can spray her all over with a bottle of water, but the smell of fly spray is what she takes offense to. We also talked about how she's not fond of having her feet handled. I mean, she was okay with the backs, as long as you could hold on until she settled down.
A couple of days ago a video popped up on Pony Peak's Facebook page of Skeeter not only standing to be sprayed with the stinkiest stuff around, but of politely having her back hooves picked up and set down. Jessica did say it was a "significant hurdle", which is polite trainer-talk for "dude, your mare's a bitch".
Jessica is also professional enough to tell me that Skeets isn't going to be a 30 day horse like I'd hoped. That's okay. At first I was thinking there's no way I can afford another 30 days, but I think with some careful not-spending, I can swing it. I don't want to push Copper out any more than he already has been pushed out either, so that's weighing on my mind as well.
Tomorrow is our next lesson and Jay's going with me. I want him to do some of this stuff with Skeeter so he can practice on Copper and hopefully it will decrease Jessica's work load once the big red horse arrives.