Saddle view from Sunshine's Back
Monday night Molly learned an important lesson. While working with Sundance she dropped the dog food bag that made crinkly noises between the back legs of the mule. She immediately bent to pick it up.
Sundance was startled and swatted with a hoof as she darted away.
No real harm had occurred but Molly did get her arm brushed by a hoof edge. We talked about that for a moment and Molly said she understood that she should have just stood for a moment and not tried to grab between Sundance's legs.
I had Molly lunge Sundance around the pen and placed the very very scary dog food bag in a spot that Sundance would have to eventually go over.
I told Molly that she wouldn't mess any training up at all. But since Sundance suddenly had an issue with one thing that was going on, we wouldn't saddle her until she figured out that the dog food bag wouldn't eat her.
Molly worked with Sundance who first jumped the bag, then later trotted over it, and lastly Molly got her to stop with a foot on it.
Lots of praise.
While working, Sundance did show the classic signs of thinking about what she was learning. Molly showed an uncanny ability to work with Sundance.
This young lady had never been in a round pen before.
We ended the session with more grooming and a bit of grazing in the yard. I let Molly handle her for all of that.
See. Sundance had been pretty much handled by Rich for most of her young life. She was to be Rich's mule. And Sundance could be a handful at times so I sort of backed off from handling her until this last fall when I realized that Rich would probably never get back to working with her.
The changes in this young mule have been astounding.
The small herd can be in the forest and all I have to do is start a series of whistles. Sundance comes at a trot or lope to my whistle.
She literally begs to be caught and worked with any time she sees me in the yard or her pasture out back.
So Molly and I saddled up Sunshine and Siera for our sunset ride. Off we went along the back roads on the ridge. The biggest challenge for Molly and Siera was to not leave Sunshine and I too far behind. Siera is gaited and walks as fast as Sunshine can jog.
Molly did a great job. A few times I told her to let Siera go ahead and stretch her legs but then turn around and come back or make Siera wait for us.
We sat and watched the sun go down where the gravel road meets blacktop. Then we turned towards home.
I could hear machinery that sounded like a large tractor just over the hill. It sounded as though it were coming towards us.
I asked Molly to bring Siera into a hay field and turn her so she could watch the tractor from a 'safe' distance.
Siera has had issues with loud machinery before and I wanted to avoid any accidents.
I lined Sunshine up next to Siera and sat still. Sunshine glanced up at the huge monstrous tractor and dipped her head to sample the hay under her hooves totally unimpressed by the size of the tractor and the large flatbed of round bales it was pulling.
However, Siera's eyes kept getting rounder and larger, her neck tightened and she started a bolt. I held my hand up and amazingly she collided with my open hand and stopped wide eyed.
Molly sat the bolt perfectly without losing her balance and calmly brought Siera back to watch the tractor move off.
At that moment, I felt that Molly was going to be an amazing rider some day. This was her fourth time on a mule and she'd had no prior experience. I do not believe I've ever seen anyone as talented as her at her age. Yes, I have really good animals for her to learn on, but she never lost her cool or her balance.
Molly and I unsaddled the mules and treated them with some grass from the yard.
Molly came in the house afterwards to tell Rich what she had learned. The two of them talked about mules/horses/training/riding and skills.
The farriers came out yesterday to trim the herd for me. Sundance used to have a habit of not wanting to stand quietly for them. She also would not put her foot on their stand to allow them to rasp her hoof.
I'd been working on that for a while now. Every day I catch her and clean her feet and have her bring her front legs forward while I pretend to rasp them.
When finished with the red heads the farriers did comment on how nice Sundance had behaved.
What did I learn?
Hoof work pays off.
This month has been a whirlwind of mule riding and training between all of the other things I have going on.
I'm diggin' it. It has been nice to have my interest in working with the animals sparked again.
However leaves on Monday to spend the rest of the summer before she heads off to college at her Grandmother's. Can I say that I am going to miss her?
What have I learned?
I still love riding and training.