Red and I honestly haven’t had a really good liberty session in…awhile. I’m kind of ashamed to admit that it’s probably been since like, September, since we’ve had a great day of playing out in the fields. We’ve done join up a few times, he’s been good and he’s still pretty attached in the pasture. Typically, if I call for him to come, he’ll do what I ask. Even when he was so lame, the first thing he wanted to do was follow me. He’s typically in a constant join up mode, which I love. But we haven’t had a really good, fun, playing session yet.
Yesterday, I stayed out at the farm after we fed and meant to lunge. I’m aiming to lunge about 3 times a week when it’s nice enough, until we get to riding more. He’s sound now and he needs to get back in shape, for sure. But yesterday…Red wanted to join up. He wouldn’t stop asking to do it. I’d push him back from me, we’d try to work…and it didn’t work. 😉 Normally, I insist that when I ask to work, we need to do it. But since we hadn’t had much of a nice day like that in awhile, I let him loose to see what he’d do.
We did a lot of tests. I wasn’t sure how far he’d let me go with liberty, especially since we haven’t done it for so long to this extent. We’ve kept it on the line mostly, and even when we did join up, he’s done good but then got bored with it after awhile and wants to walk away. He was the only horse in the pasture (I kept Spirit and Jubilee in the lower pasture so we could work without them pestering us.) so it gave me a lot of chances to work safely without having to worry. I think it kept his mind on me better as well. First, I cued him to follow. All I do is gesture for him to come like I would wave to a person to come over, if he’s being particularly absent minded that day, I’ll tell him to “come.” He came right over and followed, so once he proved that he was in that mode, we woah’d (I tell him “woah” for a stop and “stand” when I want him to stay.) and we worked on sidepasses. We’re working on that for our next little trick, and he’s doing fairly well. we’re having a bit of trouble getting those hind legs to cooperate, but he’s doing pretty well as far as listening and trying to figure out what I’m asking.
Once we were done with that, I told him to stay and I walked down the hill a little ways and asked him to come to see if he would be willing to leave grass and have to actually go down the hill and around a few things to find me and get to me. Sure enough, he walked on down the hill and searched me out and came right to me, stood a few feet away and waited for his next cue. It’s all a game for him, really. He keeps his ears happy and perked up the majority of the time and listens and learns. You can really see his mind turning when I ask him for something new.
I asked him to follow me down to the flatter part of the pasture, and tested my luck a bit. I asked for a trot, and for him to stay near me. Whenever I ask for a faster speed at liberty, he typically either refuses or runs away, getting in the “Wee I get to buck and play!” mode. But today, he kept a little ahead and to my side like I asked for safety, but he followed me right down and slowed when I told him to. Cue proud moment.
Once we got down there, I asked him to stand in front of me and free lunge in a circle. At first, I just wanted a walk. This is something we’ve only tried in the round pen, but considering he was so focused and happy to listen, I thought “what the heck.” Even if he turned away or refused, we’d already had a good day of progress. But he didn’t refuse or turn away. He kept in a perfect circle, and we walk/trotted. Totally perfect. I didn’t make him work long because he was being so good. We stopped and I praised, praised, praised.
Then, of course, we ran around some more. 😉
By this time, my step-father had gotten there to check the fencing and start on fencing in a new pasture(!!!) so I ran to the barn a few times to get him a few tools and what-not. Each time, he stayed at the gate without me even asking and kept on following. This horse was made for work like this.
I ran up to one of the hills to check the fences near the round pen and wondered if he’d come…he’d stopped at the barn and was getting a drink of water, so I waited for him to be finished. At that point, I kind of figured that he was done. We’d done way more work than usual and he normally kind of fizzles out way before this point. But nope…
He went up the hill. And then we went down it. And I had to stop my step-dad again..and he stood next to me, just waiting.
We did a few more things, but this post is photo heavy already…but he never left the whole join up mode. I threw some hay once we finished, took of his halter and let him loose with the other horses. Overall, it was by far our best liberty day, probably ever. Now I just can’t wait to be back on his back 🙂 Also…I have a bit of excited news that I can’t share quite yet, but hopefully I’ll be able to by next week. 😀