As much fun as it would have been to ride Hero today, I stuck with my plan (for now!) of 2 "non mounted" workouts for every mounted one. But just because it was "ground work" didn't mean it had to be boring.
Quite to the contrary, it was a terrific time to take him out into a newly mowed field and "test" my training. The way the horse reacts in the familiar environs of their arena is one thing. The real test of your work is how well it "sticks" when you go somewhere new. The picture on the left shows baby Hero practicing his leading skills on a field walk back in 2012. You can see he's wearing a halter, but I'm using a body rope so that even at this age, he's learning that his motor comes from behind.
As far as a horse is concerned, you don't have to go far to find some place new. New can be just on the other side of a fence. Today we headed out to a field we haven't worked in before, but it is actually adjacent to his turn out area.
I had previously walked this field because I don't like surprises like giant woodchuck holes.
My primary goal is for Hero to think that no matter where he is working, he is "workmanlike". To set him up for success, I did a little simple lunging and long lining in the arena to get his mind in the right spot. I also used this time to physically condition him at a long trot and practiced working trot to canter transitions. Then we headed out. And while he was a little bit "snorty", I worked slow trot and a lot of trot to walk transitions. It can be tempting to think that "letting him blow off some steam" out there would settle him but I've found that it's the opposite.
Hero meets a tree! While we spend ALOT of time in the big outside with our young horses, that happens AFTER I am satisfied that they have a certain level of competency in the ROUND PEN before we consider graduating to outside field trips!
Hero learns fast! With him, first experiences are very important. Ergo, if when we went "out" and he felt "snorty" I allowed him to give into his very natural urge to "get frisky", Hero would have filed a little bit of info into his big brain and it would have read like this: Big outside field=Party!!!
Don't get me wrong, I didn't expect perfection. But I kept reviewing the most basic skills he already knows. We did trot, walk and halt transitions in the long lines.Very quickly, he seemed to add this to his "file": Big outside field=Same behavior as arena.
Afterwards, Billy the golden lab provided me with the best part of my training day. Prior to a week ago, Hero has never seen a dog! Today, Billy was really curious about what Hero and I were doing and he was lying in wait right next to the 4 walk over poles I had set up for Hero. Hero had radar lock on Billy. Billy had radar lock on Hero. However, Hero absolutely KNOWS what poles are all about (we spent tons of time over the winter working poles in the indoor arena) so those poles actually helped. Hero had previous knowledge about what was expected of him with poles. Hero managed to navigate a pretty tight walk over path AND keep one eye on Billy!
Things got more challenging when Billy thought maybe he could get Hero to play with him and started "puppy running" back and forth inviting Hero to join in! It was perfect! Billy never got too close and Hero got another question answered. What am I supposed to with that funny looking critter:=Not a thing!