For the next several months, any work I do with Arabee is going to be done from the ground. At this point, I am not concerned about fitness. Baby's not due until the very end of October, maybe first part of November, and then I'll have another 6-8 weeks before I'll really be ready to get back in the saddle. So, we're looking at not starting riding again until mid-late December. If I make Chicken Chase 2010 my first LD completion goal (which should be sometime in April) I'll have enough time to get her ready for a slow LD even if I don't start riding again until January. I have a much better idea of what it will take to do this now than I did before. I have most of the equipment I need, saddle, pad, saddle pack, hoof boots, rump rug, sheets, etc - I should be good to go to jump back into training mode when the time comes.
I don't want to just sit around this summer though and wait. I'm still scouting out good deals on water tubs, rain gear, horse camping equipment, winter riding wear. I'm really working hard on keeping Arabee's feet perfectly trimmed. We're taking walks around the farm - I have several routes figured out: the hive, the river, to the red barn, down to the Polly field, the mound...each ranging from 1/2 mile to hopefully 2 miles (I have yet to actually measure distance). These are the places I'll be training at for the first couple of months until baby is old enough to be away from me. I won't haul out for any training rides until baby is at least 12 weeks old, and then I don't want to miss more than one feeding, so it's important I set up a good network of riding places around home. So far, these walks have been good for us, and have actually improved bonding somewhat, but I want to do more.
Arabee wears her rope halter, I clip on one of the leather split reins, tie a knot in the end and stick it in my waistband - I am hands-free and she sticks to my side without interference from me whatsoever if she behaves well (which 97% of the time she does). If I turn my shoulders towards her, she stops. If I turn my shoulders to face her, she backs. She keeps her head at my shoulder always, if she lags, I give her a tug on the rope, if she gets too far ahead, we stop abruptly and she has to back several steps. I want to be able to have the same "feel" under saddle - traveling along on a loose rein unless she needs correction, otherwise moving from my body and voice cues. I don't want to have to mess with her head unless she spooks, or decides she doesn't need to listen to my seat and legs.
I put the surcingle and long lines on her a couple of weeks ago, and we did some long-lining around the barn lot. She did well, was very responsive, framed up really fast and stayed that way most of the time. But, basically the whole time the lines were "in contact" - she never got a release unless she rooted down with her head to pull the lines loose - this is not behavior I want to reinforce! Since it's important to me to be able to ride with basically no rein contact, I think I will have to nix long-lining. We don't have a round pen or arena, and I really don't want to just chase her around the paddock since I'm not really concerned with improving fitness at this time. What I really want to do is some sort of ground exercise beyond just going on walks to improve our communication, improve the bond, improve our teamwork so that when I am ready to get back on and ride things go more smoothly.
I'm drawn to the idea of using TTEAM this summer. It pretty much sounds like a low-stress, hands-on way to work with my horse, that could have helpful meaning for vet checks later when the time comes. Has anyone out there used any TTEAM ideas/methods with their horses, or heard of someone else who has??
I'd love to hear your input on not only TTEAM, but if you know of other similar ideas that I could try out this summer, with the focus on building a better partnership with the horse. Thanks in advance!!