Tuesday, 7 April 2015

And so it begins - Backing Ailbhe

On Saturday I flew back in to New Zealand after a month away in Mexico. What an amazing country it is to be sure but it really served to remind me just how lucky I am to live in a country like New Zealand and how fortunate I am to be able to keep my animals in such wonderful conditions and in such rude health. I didn't see many horses/donkeys/mules who would have scored much above a 0 through to 2 on the body condition scoring system and most of these animals were also expected to work (hard), not just stand around in fields. It's hard for them over there - My horses really are thoroughly spoiled and I suspect have NO idea just how lucky they are!

As I said before I left, one of the things that I am most excited about this year is starting Ailbhe under saddle and I made a commitment to myself that this would happen upon my return. So, today I got up bright and early and made it happen. 

I have never been the most patient of people so backing Albs was never going to be a long and drawn out process. He has had a couple of lunge lessons in the last year, so has the basics of going forward off pressure and has been handled enough to know about yielding to pressure from the ground and backing up/turning his hindquarters and moving his feet. Today I tied him up in the shed (3rd time I have done this), brushed him down, picked out his feet and hosed his legs (2nd time I have done that). I then showed him the saddle blanket and slid it down his neck on to his back and flapped it around a bit. Then the saddle came out and went on and the girth was done up (slowly/gently) and I untied him and walked him out of the shed, moved his feet and backed him up. That done I brought him back in and tightened the girth and got my helmet and gloves on. Nick arrived to help so we took him out to the 'arena', I tightened his girth a little more and then popped him out on the lunge with the stirrups rolled up, in both directions at walk and trot. No drama. Got him to stand whilst I tightened the girth one more hole and pulled the stirrups down and flapped the saddle flaps a bit. No drama. Back on the lunge, walk and trot and canter, both reins. No drama. What the heck, there's no time like the present, so, I got on. Yeah, you guessed it, no drama. Walked on the lead for a couple of 30 metre circles in both directions, halted, backed up and walked forward again. Unclipped the lead and followed Nick around the arena quietly, at walk, halted, backed up and walked on again. Finally stopped, lots of rubs, feet out of stirrups and dismounted. Feet did not move when I dismounted or mounted either. What a good pony!

Tomorrow will be a case of rinse and repeat and I am hoping we'll have our first outing off the property and down the road as soon as I can bribe a friend to come out and ride Meg as support pony. Today's photos are just cell phone photos so nothing flash but nice to have a record. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow!