We had to miss a week, as I was away for work but we were back again this week. I had had a pretty shit day with vehicle issues and running late for appointments and lots of swearing. So I wanted to have a quiet outing on my nice little horse to cheer me up.
And good ol' Maxie did just that!
It was just an intimate gathering of three, all young/green horses, so we stuck together. Nice too, not to have others hooning about and no displays of rearing/bucking/bolting. The pony club had left up a little showjumping course for us to use and put away. Even at 65 cm it was too big for us greenies, so luckily K was on hand to reduce it to a ridiculous height (on the bottom of the jumpstands!).
Max for some reason best known to himself, charged off and cantered through the trotting poles. Maybe a bit of panic from seeing so many poles? Who knows, but I kept quiet and got him trotting through with some nice elevation in the end. We played around with trying to achieve a nice working trot and popping over any jumps that got in the way. Max found it all very exciting though and kept breaking into a rough canter, so I think we need to get some real jumping lessons soon.
The only negative thing was that he has started to be difficult to load into the float. I wonder if the longer trip the other weekend has scared him a bit, and there is a definite regression in his behaviour. I'll have to invest some time in more float training, although he still goes on pretty easily. It's just annoying when he doesn't just walk straight on! I have to remind myself how far we have come with this though, and not panic.
So this week was a bit less stressful for us. No loose horses galloping about to start with. Max seemed to recognise the park, and go "all right, here we are again". We set off hacking around with a group of others, one of who was a young mare that was feeling pretty fresh. She started hopping up and down which didn't seem to worry Max as long as I kept him distracted.
We got over to the other side of the cross country paddock (all the flags were up for an ODE that weekend, sigh...) and I was talking to the woman next to me on a little skewbald. She had just finished saying he was much better this week, when he suddenly bolted off on her. She held on as long as she could, and then crashed to the ground in a heap. All that excitement, with people yelling helpful advice, set off the mare again. She started to seriously rear and then threw in a good buck as well. Poor old K didn't have a chance of sitting through that, so she hit the ground too.
Max was pretty googly-eyed by this stage and starting to tense up, so I took him off on a quiet mission to catch the loose pony. He helped me do that and we returned the pony to the shaken but unhurt rider.
After that, we just pottered around practising being brave on our own, with a few halts here and there and decided that was enough for one day.
So although my little horse is green and a bit spooky, it could be worse!
I'm a great believer in positive reinforcement and/or food bribes. One of Max's favourite treats are little crunchy biscuit-like thingies. He will load onto the float and then crane his head and neck right around to look at me behind him. The look on his face is all "I've done my bit, now where's my reward?". So I always have a few in my pocket to give him.
But then the shops ran out!
I asked my good friend, Dr Google, about a recipe and had a go at making my own horse treats. The first batch was obviously very palatable to Max (but then he is known for being a "gannet") if a bit crumbly. I'm sure a bit of experimentation will sort that out though.
He loves them, so I called them Max Snax!
1 c flour (preferably wholemeal)
1 c rolled oats
1 Tablespoon salt
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons molasses (optional)
other options - crushed linseed, sunflower seeds, coarse cornmeal
Line a shallow baking tin or tray with baking paper. Set oven at
Mix ingredients together.
Add enough water to make a firm dough.
Press out till about 0.5 cm thick, mark into squares with a knife.
Bake gently for at least an hour, until very crunchy.
Turn the oven off, and leave to dry out in the oven.
Store in an air-tight container. Hand out if your horse deserves
them, especially once he is in the float.
(Or if you just feel like it!).
Our riding club is based at our Equestrian Park, and so we have access to a great venue. Each Thursday now that Daylight Savings has started, we have a twilight rally after work.
The plan is to get Max to as many of these rallies as I can. Hopefully they will be quiet little low-stress outings for us, and then I might be able to take him out on a few small/short treks. There is only so much riding around in circles that a girl and her horse can cope with!
Max was a bit astonished to be wrapped up and loaded into the float on a weeknight. I was well-armed with Max Snax though, so he went on happily enough. The Park is only a few ks down the road, so it is a quick trip and we were among the first to arrive. He came off the float looking like a giraffe, and immediately made friends with the two horses at the next-door float. That was going swimmingly until they went off to ride in the other paddock. So panicky little Stress Horse appears, spinning around to the end of his rope and knocking me aside as I tried to put his boots on.
I had started to get some sense back into his brain when someone else arrived, and promptly let go of their horse, who proceded to gallop around the paddock like a manaic. Great! Stress Horse was back and even more hyped up now. Eventually I caught the offender, handed him back to his (completely unembarrassed, unworried) owner, (thanks for that!) and got Max tacked up. I'd added a running martingale so I had something to hang on to in an emergency, and to stop the llama getting his head up too far.
We did a bit of ground work, and wandered about talking to everyone for a while. Then we went off to the PC paddock where I used one of the cross country jumps to get on. Training size rolltop = Max sized mounting block!
He was a bit tense to start with, all googly eyes and llama neck. But we just kept trooping on with some accompaniment from his newest BFF Maurice, until Maurice lost the plot and we went solo. There were people cantering huge circles, thundering past jumping the cross country jumps, horses going sideways in a panic, and the horse-eating sheep - all of which he coped with really well. I was so proud of how he got his brain in gear and got calmer as we went on. We ended by popping over a few little poles (cross training is the way to go for the baby eventer!) and I went home very proud of my little guy.