Piper’s Progress

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We’ve been in a good riding pattern since we got back from South Dakota. It’s been fun getting to know K’s new horse a little, and the weather has been wonderful.

We’ve changed our ride combos and gone back to riding Steen and Nevada together, then switching to Laredo and Piper. This is mostly because Nevada has continued to be unsettled and a bit explosive lately, and having Steen nearby supports her in a way Piper’s presence does not.

Piper and I have transitioned to the outdoor arena, which is a much bigger space. It’s positioned so it has a view of the stall herd, the feed lot herd, and the pasture herd, plus any activity going on near the barn. I have been looking forward to getting Piper out there since the footing is not as deep and the environment is more stimulating. I thought it would help her feel more inclined to move out.

Our first day out there was right after we got back from the clinic. Piper hadn’t been touched in two weeks and she was in heat. The barn’s side door was broken, so we had to tack up inside. Piper got pretty rattled by the activity and commotion of morning chores, some exuberant dogs, and feeling left behind when Laredo and Brian went out of ahead of us. By the time I got her to the outdoor arena, she was more wound up than I’ve ever seen her. I was definitely time for groundwork.

I started out with basic circle stuff, then got the flag out. It was breezy. The way the flag blew and flapped was a new experience for Piper. She got pretty bothered about it at first, but we worked our way through things until she started letting down a bit.

As we went on, she actually let down quite a lot. It is finally starting to seem like Piper is taking comfort and a feeling of confidence from the groundwork, rather than just learning to deal with my strange requirements. She still gets rigid and stressed at times, but I think she’s also starting to truly trust that there is always a right answer. In a surprisingly short amount of time, she wasn’t reacting to the flag. Her overall demeanor had changed so much I felt ready to get on.

As I mounted, Brian and Laredo came over to keep us company. That first ride, we did a lot of short serpentines, moving the hind, and following Laredo in a circle. Piper did amazingly well. There was some craziness going on with the herds – running horses, pasture antics, etc.. Laredo even had a little spook while we were walking circles together. Piper just didn’t pick up on that energy.

The next ride out there was even better. We started with a lot of good tarp work. I’ve used the tarp with Piper before, inside, and she never reacted to it at all. Again, the wind made it a lot more challenging for her. We got to work through some of that anxiety before we started. We went on to have our longest ride yet, working our way through quite a lot of exercises before getting to some good trotting.

But today was the best ride yet. We worked again with the flag beforehand, and again the wind made it challenging for her but she came around quickly. I also got the rope out again and let it bang around on her hips and hocks and belly while she walked circles. She’s never minded the rope, and still didn’t today.

By the time I got on, Piper was seeming very settled. We did quite a lot of walking and trotting, and I made use of the bigger space to get her into the canter a handful of times. She was great about everything. Some of the refinement we had working before the time off is coming back. By the end, we were both very relaxed. I think we’re starting to trust each other. I still only have 13 hours on her, which is less than I expected to have done by June. Hopefully we can start getting in some longer rides now.

Horseback Hours YTD: 71:10

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