Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When winter hands you buckets full of snow, make snowade

I've decided to use the vast amounts of snow outside to my advantage and try to use it to get Gwen used to the saddle.  There are three main reasons I've decided this:
  • With snow this deep, it's really hard for her to move around in.  So if she's going to flip out, it's going to take a lot of energy for her to do it.  Hopefully that'll tone her down a bit.
  • I need to keep her calm and concentrating on me, I can only do that if her brother is nearby.  The snow is too deep to allow grazing, so by throwing out a few flakes of hay I can keep her brother nearby but over there, if you know what I mean.  He's all over me if he knows I have treats in my pocket. 
  • If she does freak out and knocks me around, 2+ feet of snow makes a nice, soft cushion.
I started out by just standing next to her in the snow.  Being ~850 pounds lighter than her I don't sink in the snow as far as she does.  So when I stand next to her I can actually drape quite a bit of myself over her back.  So I leaned over her and gave her a click and a treat for being relaxed while I did it.  I hung my arms over her back, rubbed her belly and even put a little of my weight on her.  She did pretty well with that.

The next day I did a little more of that and she really didn't seem too concerned about it.  I put a little more of my body weight on her back and even swung my leg up next to her hindquarters as if I was going to mount.  She was still cool about it. 

Last night I decided to try the saddle.  I brought it over to her first and let her sniff it, click and treat.  We did this a few times and then I put it on her back, click and treat.  She decided at this point that she was a little bothered by it.  She went to rush off... and discovered that rushing off in chest deep snow isn't easy.  So she stopped after 3 steps.  HA HA, my devious plan is working!  I gave her a click and treat for stopping and then I took the saddle on and off a few times until she was relaxed and eating hay with it on her back.

Then I grabbed the girth.  I buckled it on the last hole on one side of the saddle and then went around her to buckle it up on the other.  She was bothered by this, quite a bit actually, and rushed off again.  Again, rushing off was rather hard so she didn't get very far.  It took 3 tries but she eventually let me buckle the girth all the way around her.  Mind you the girth was only on the last hole on both sides and really wasn't touching her belly at all.  I then, very slowly, with big breaks in between, buckled up the girth one hole/one billet at a time, clicking and treating all the while.  I got to where the girth was one hole away from being snug enough to ride in, and then I took the saddle off.  I'll see if I can get it tighter tonight.  Then maybe tomorrow I'll try putting some weight in one of the stirrups.

Take that Mother Nature- you have failed to thwart me!

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