There was a lot on the schedule, and I had a brief thought of riding, but dismissed it. We started the weekend on the ground and the training was just going to get more intense, so I decided to stay on the ground. Skeeter got lots of practice standing tied in different locations, which was so good for her. She stands tied now like an old broke horse. Well, most of the time.
Part of the desensitizing planned for Sunday was 'exotic animals', which maybe weren't so exotic, but more 'what they'll see while patrolling the fair grounds'. The night before, Skeeter had already met the mini horse who freaked her the eff out. Skeets jumped like a spider had touched her when she saw the mini the first time. It blew her ever-loving mind (which I found hilarious).
I helped set up the pens in the arena for the animals and got to handle an alpaca for the first time. I guess I expected that they'd have hooves like horses, but their feet are the things nightmares are made of. Holy crap, they could disembowel a person if they wanted to.
|Those are big ole nope toes for me. *from Google images|
|She finally quit snorting and blowing, but was still perplexed.|
Having shared space with alpacas at the lodge last year, she wasn't too terribly interested in them, but politely introduced herself at my request.
After seeing the 'exotics' we headed to the other end of the arena to play with other things: the tarp, raincoats, noise makers, etc. We've done a good job of
When she could stand still, I tried again, but this time over her head. She did not like that a whole lot, but quickly calmed down and stood in one spot. I figured that was plenty of work and moved on to the smoke bombs and flares.
She did okay with them - hated the smell of each - but the smoke in the air and fizzy sound of the flare didn't seem to bother her. She did move away from the smell every time the breeze (yes, just a gentle breeze, not gale force winds!) shifted, but there was nothing panicky about her moving away - it was just obvious that she'd rather not be breathing that stuff thankyouverymuch.
We have an amazing obstacle course at the training center: teeter-totters, bridges, shower curtains, a tire hill, and a bunch of other cool things to play on. When it was our turn to go over, the trainer who had ponied Skeeter yesterday offered to pony her through the water crossing and I jumped at the chance. I wanted to make Skeets cross it, because it's much deeper than the creek at Mom's place and figured I could drive her through it, but getting ponied was much better.
|Day two of being ponied went much smoother|
With the successful crossing of the water, I took her back and we went to work on other things. I drove her across the bridges without any problem and started her on the teeter-totter. She's not afraid of it, but is also smart enough to know that all she has to do is step to the side to get off. We have two teeter-totters, so she got to go over them again and again and again until she quit trying to step off, then I turned her around and made her to them from the high side a couple of times.
Besides the water crossing, the obstacle I was most looking forward to was the tarp-covered mattress. I watched horses struggle with it last year, when I was working ground support, and wanted to see how Skeets would do. I wish I'd had a free hand to video it, but she did pretty well. It took a couple of attempts to get her to cross it each direction. When I first asked her to step up on it, she thought it was just a tarp, which is no big deal, but the squishiness of the mattress was a surprise and she wasn't entirely pleased. We crossed it in both directions multiple times until she stepped up without hesitation.
The 'shower curtain' and the other obstacles were simple in comparison. She wasn't thrilled with being driven through the long strips of material she couldn't see through, but she went anyway. We still had a bit of time in our training rotation, so we practiced dragging a tiger.
|Not afraid at all.|
Skeets did really well for the most part. There was some jumping initially, but she never tried to bolt or pull away. Eventually, the jumping slowed to flinching. I allowed her to keep moving her feet, but she slowed to a stop on her own. She stood nicely, without even flinching, while the trainers finished up. Well, we thought they'd finished up. They'd gone through 30-40 rounds and most of the horses were doing great. Skeets and I thought they were done, but it turns out they were just reloading for round two.
Round two was just too much for Skeeter. We'd reached a great stopping point, but then the stimulus started up again and that was it. She was d-o-n-e. I made her stay in the arena until round two was done, then we went back to the trailer. It was easy to decide that it was time to go home. I'd asked a ton of her, and she'd done an amazing job, but she was done and we needed to head home.
Knowing she was ready to just shut down, I wasn't sure how well she'd load, so I asked a couple of the trainers to help me load her. She loaded surprisingly well, in under ten minutes, without a fight (but with some granola bars and a final treat of black oil sunflower seeds), and we headed home.
The rest of the posse still had a couple of hours' worth of training, and I felt bad about leaving, but I got over it pretty quickly.
While, we won't be certified to ride this year, I'm unbelievably proud of Skeeter.