Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (8)

Jen arrived shortly after 9 am and we brought both ponies out to be brushed over and tacked-up, Sonny at the tree, Ruby outside the end stable. The weather was windy with brief, heavy showers but both were relatively laid-back about it. There's a lot to be said for Fell ponies :)

After yesterday's through soaking Jen had cleaned saddle and bridle and saddle soaped them. I had opened up the curb hook on the bit, to make it easier to remove the curb chain when unbridling. Previously it had been tight and difficult to remove, which agitated Sonny unnecessarily. David had spent half an hour teaching him to open his mouth for the bit (because he was being obstinate about it) and now he'll open his mouth, and more importantly his teeth, to let you slip the bridle on without fuss. All you need to do is put the bridle in position with the bit under his nose, and he'll do it when you say, "Open."

Jen had put the reins onto the (Uxeter) bit at the plain ring setting - instead of the lower, curb setting as we'd received it from David. Sonny doesn't seem to need the curb setting. Taking hold and "grabbing him" by the bit just doesn't work. He needs to be ridden forward from the leg, and then will round up nicely into a good outline, and ask, "Where's the bit? I need to know you're there." A light rein contact is all that he then needs, and he'll work in a nice outline on no contact at all if you just trust him to do so.

I harnessed Ruby to the carriage and peeked round the end of the stable to see whether Jen wanted any help with Sonny today. She led him round the mounting block but then ignored it. She tied him with the usual quick release knot to the tree at the high ring that she could easily reach from his back, parked her long dressage whip through the stirrup keeper on the saddle, and mounted him from the ground. He was foiled. She then pulled the quick release, and carried the lead rope as well as the reins for the rest of the ride. (She used to do this when breaking youngsters at Trotter's yard.)

We walked down to Bretherdale road-end, for a change, and then up Pikestoll which is steep. Part way up we met a county council 3-ton pickup coming down, so it, and we, each had to edge over to enable us to pass. At the first farm gateway - where Tom always leaves silage bales in winter, so it's full of black plastic - we made the ponies walk over the plastic, then walked back down to the road-end. Here we parted company: I went to the bridge, and Jen rode Sonny up Bretherdale, then we both turned, and came back to pass each other. This was complicated by the pickup truck returning from Bretherdale behind Sonny, and a tractor with (?fencing?) equipment on it following me and Ruby. I parked in Tom's farm lane, Jen rode Sonny to join us, and the motorised traffic moved on before we crossed, and turned, and joined up again to walk back up Pikey for a second time. Jen put Sonny in front and he walked away and trotted nicely up to the second gateway. Here we turned again, and came back down. It all sounds a bit boring to describe, but enlivened by the brisk breeze and occasional showers, it was actually quite pleasant! At the "black plastic" gateway we met the tractor again and the ponies were both very good about walking over the plastic to get off the road; scary stuff but very much "old hat" now not only to Ruby but also to Sonny. On a loose rein, Sonny in fact stood the tractor better than Ruby, who wanted to make an excuse to jump in front of Sonny. Down the hill again, along the level to the bridge; I suggested Jen use her leg on Sonny to move him sideways across the road a few times, while she had level straight going and no traffic. He responded easily and without flapping. Up the hill to the house, over the brow and down into Greenholme. No traffic, no fuss, all very boring, just as it should be.

Jen rode Sonny down to the beck, where there is a slope into the water. I didn't expect her to pick a day when the beck was running a bit high to ask him to walk into water, or else I would have stopped her, since everything had gone very well up to that point. They had - not an argument - but a minor discussion, on the bank, with Jen asking Sonny to step in, and Sonny saying, quite mildly, that he didn't think so, thanks.

I have to say I think he was right, as the water was still coloured from yesterday's rain and he could not be sure of his footing. We know it's a sound bottom, but he didn't. However, he didn't do anything naughty other than stand still, and he could easily have ducked Jen with a well timed buck. So she got off and got back on him while his feet were planted. No arguments.

We'll save crossing water for a nice hot day. He'll be happy to splash, when we've trotted over Pikey to the ford at Roundthwaite, where I can get Ruby and the carriage across and there is room for Sonny to follow Mum.

We went home, and I trotted Ruby away from Sonny, who preferred to investigate the track to Brown Bank barn - possibly thinking it was like the track up to David's buildings! Anyway, Jen let him look, and then brought him home.

We've mucked out the stables (always easier with 2 people!) and turned the ponies out for an hour's grass while the wind is there to keep off the flies.

Of course, the hour had stretched to 2 by the time I got round to bringing them in. I put up a haynet for Sonny, and Ruby's usual flake of soaked hay in her half-barrel. I shut the yard gate, opened the field gate, and walked down the field to catch Ruby, who walked quietly in, picking bits of grass as we went. Sonny came wandering along a respectful 20 yards behind. I put Ruby indoors with her mugful of feed, leaving a tablespoonful on the windowsill for Sonny. He was still 20 yards from the open gate, but looking for me, so I called him, and he trotted up and let me lead him in ... walk with me, stand with me ... he is better at this than Ruby is, now.

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