So far, Iris' groundwork has been going pretty well. Comparing how she's doing here versus what I had heard from Dr. Kendal, I'm pretty pleased. She's not really offered any of the complete behaviors that she had mentioned seeing.
Iris did take a bit to settle in & did a lot of pacing initially, even kicking at the other horses from time to time. Now, she's penned with S'More, an 11-year-old mare, & Socrates, the little 9-year-old Mustang gelding that I got from Andrea. Socrates is proving to be a great horse to have in with these mares. Though he's little, he does a great job of establishing himself as "top dog" in the pen in an efficient manner & keeps the other horses from becoming too pushy at feeding time. The three of them get along well. I wish I had two Socrates to have him in with the two stud colts that I have as well.
Before putting her in with the other horses, I spent some time in her pen, Matching Steps with her - something Warwick Schiller has been doing a lot. She spent most of the time pacing but eventually noticed that I was tuned into her & she would periodically come to check in with me before leaving to pace again. That became more & more frequent until she finally stood next to me for longer & more extended periods. I started our round pen session like this as well. It seems to build more of a connection & an understanding with the horses that I'm aware of their movements (an ear flick, turning an eye towards me, footfalls, etc.) & see the things they see (as I'll often look in the same direction that they are looking) versus starting to send them around the round pen immediately.
Iris has a tendency to be right on top of you with her head & neck or with her shoulder. In Jen's work, she's found that many horses tend to hold their breath or suck their tongue to get a dopamine hit. This is what I'm working on when I list "Back Up & Breath." I want her to back up & be content to stand 10 feet away from me. Initially, I would back her up & walk towards her telling her to breathe before sticking a finger in her mouth to encourage her to lick & chew, therefore breathing & not sucking on her tongue, before stepping back again. It didn't take long & I would back her up & she would automatically lick & chew. She's learning how to regulate herself from a farther distance rather than while she's on top of me.
Round Penning has gone well. As she moves around at a trot & lope, I see that she travels slightly off. I think that it's more due to a limited range of motion in that hind leg rather than genuinely being lame. As of now, I don't feel that it will hinder training or what you want to do with her in the future. Though it will definitely be something that I monitor as we continue on. I'm looking forward to seeing if Jen can help her in that area, too.
Desensitizing to the Lead Rope & Stick & String has gone well. She did get a bit nervous when I Slapped the Ground with the Stick & String the first day & popped her front legs a good bit off of the ground. Once she figured out that she didn't need to move around, she's done well since.
Yield the Hindquarters Stage 1 has gone relatively well. At first, she had a tendency to want to brace or come into my space with her forequarters. That was remediated after gaining control of those by Yielding the Forequarters. With that, she was initially a bit stickier to the right & better to the left. That is a crucial exercise for her. She's been a bit more reactive with Yield the Hindquarters Stage 2, where I want her to be a bit quicker about yielding the HQ so that she's facing me. In time, she'll figure out that I don't need her to put quite so much energy into that movement.
She surprised me once she got over her initial desire to move her feet with Flexing. She did spend some time yielding her hindquarters at first, but once she figured out that she had to keep her feet still & soften her head & neck towards her side, she's gotten relatively quick about doing that.
On Friday, I introduced Lunging Stage 1. Here, I want her to travel around me & yield her hindquarters to face me. I again saw some of her desire to pop the front end off the ground when I asked her to move off around me the first few times. Similar to Yield the HQ Stage 2, she makes big overexaggerated jerky movements. Occasionally, she will get a bit pinny eared as well. Once her feet free up a bit more & become more fluid, her mind will do the same.
Yesterday, I introduced Lunging Stage 2. Here, I step in front of her driveline & she makes more of a cutting horse move & changes directions on the circle. This was similar to Stage 1 in her reactiveness, but I saw a nice change towards the end. We'll keep building upon that!
Yesterday, I also brought her up to the barn to be brushed & take her photos. She had no reaction to the fly spray. When I initially tied her up to brush & take photos, she was a bit antsy, occasionally swinging her HQ side to side. I then worked with her & tied her up so that she could see that standing tied was a pretty good deal. She stood well until she got her air back, then was much more anxious. We'll continue on with groundwork before doing much more tying.
Today, I'll introduce leading by the feet & work through each foot throughout the week. This is a great exercise to get her thinking rather than reacting & to prepare her for hobble training in a few weeks.
Later this week, I'll introduce Jeffrey's Method to her (search Lexy Nuesch Horsemanship Jeffrey's Method on Facebook for a video example) tomorrow or Friday. If all goes well, I should have her saddled on Monday. We'll spend some more time on groundwork improving what we've worked on so far & adding other exercises like Backing, Sending, Circle Driving, Leading Beside, Run Up & Rub, etc. I'll also be setting up her dental & Equinitry appointments for sometime next week.
I'll know more about a first-ride timeline after her first few saddles. I'm not one to rush this part of her training, as setting up the first rides for success is vital to the rest of her riding career. If both Randy & I are home, I'm hoping that things will line up for September 26th.