Since I can’t ride, I’ve been doing groundwork with Baron in the round pen. He feels well enough to canter apparently, since he takes off as soon as he gets in the pen, even though I do not encourage this and try to keep him to a trot at most. This injury may be a blessing in disguise, because it’s forcing me to spend time working on his ground manners and confidence when I would normally be tempted to ride. I got some inspiration for this ground work this weekend when I visited my old barn where I leased Magic. Adrian, who owns the barn, is the best I’ve ever seen at ground work. He has just the right energy and intuition and gets wonderful results with all sorts of horses. He told me to free lunge Baron in the round pen and keep him moving until I see 3 things happen. First, he’ll prick his ear toward me. Second, he’ll lower his head, and third, he’ll start licking his lips. Those 3 things are signs that he’s asking permission to slow down and rest. He told me to hold out my hand and Baron would walk in toward me in the center of the round pen. When he does, he told me to turn and walk away and Baron would follow. On Sunday I followed Adrian’s advice and Baron did exactly as Adrian said he would. It only took a few laps around the pen before he showed all 3 signs. Sure enough, when I turned and walked away, Baron followed.
On Monday I decided to try something different because I didn’t want to work him too hard on his sore leg. I got a piece of blue tarp and laid it down in the round pen. Horses don’t like stepping on weird surfaces. I’ve heard this is because their vision isn’t that great and the change in texture from the ground to the tarp looks like a big hole. Not sure if that’s true. In any case, horses are very careful about where they will put their feet. First I led Baron up to the tarp and he sniffed it, but wouldn’t cross over. Parelli uses the line “Nose, neck, maybe the feet” when working with this sort of thing. Try to get your horse to sniff it, then stick his neck over it, and then maybe step on it. Nose and neck were easy for Baron, but the feet took a little longer. Not much longer though, because he let me lead him over the tarp after only 3 or 4 tries!