We’re still a couple weeks away from Gemma’s follow-up appointment to get the all clear to return to full work, but that doesn’t mean that her life has to be boring. She’s got her small paddock turnout and is allowed to do plenty of handwalking/controlled movement. So, ya know… why not go ahead get her some adventure miles?
We made plans for Hillary and Henry to go XC schooling on Saturday morning, so of course I said we should take Gemma along too. Once she’s back to full work I want to spend some time schooling her over XC stuff in-hand, but for now I could just lead her around the venue with us, and I figured maybe Henry could pony her through the water. As we all know, learning to be a happy and relaxed show horse has very little to do with the horse show itself and a lot more to do with how well they handle the travel, how well they adapt to the new place, how confident they are in their surroundings, etc. We can certainly start working on all that now, before I ever actually swing a leg over her.
Luckily she has been (knock on wood) a very good traveler so far. Her first outing to the jumper rounds a few weeks ago was her maiden voyage, and I was quite pleased with how she handled herself then. This time she was even better. Gemma loads easily, seems content in the trailer, eats her hay, and unloads well. She’s always very curious and alert in her surroundings, but not frantic or worried. More like “WOW THERE’S SO MUCH COOL STUFF TO SEE”… reminds me of Presto. This time I felt like she was settled enough to immediately tie her to the trailer with Henry, and she just stood there checking things out while he got tacked up.
First we just walked around the course with Hillary and Henry while they warmed up and started jumping some things. When he first cantered away Gemma was a little bit nervous, wondering where he was going, so I just had her walk around me in circles. The hamsters always stay on the wheel better when the feet are moving. After a few minutes she was more interested in finding grass than anything else. We walked the whole cross country field, up and down the bits of terrain, across footing changes, and sniffed some of the jumps. Sometimes Gemma forgets about personal space, but is always very receptive to corrections. She’s also very willing to try what you ask, even if something is a bit scary. I love that feature.
After Henry had jumped around a bit, we headed back up to the front so they could school the banks and water. Henry needed a little bit of a breather, so I handed Gemma off to Hillary so she could pony her to the water.
I was fully prepared for her to need several minutes before she actually went into the water. I knew she would eventually, but she can be a little careful about where she puts her feet, and ones like that sometimes need more processing time when they’re first faced with a water jump. Once she had walked back and forth along the edge a couple times Hillary aimed at the shallowest part, went up to the edge, and halted, letting her take a good long look. Then they took a step and halted again. Then another. Then another. Not taking the next step until Gemma had gotten to look at it and assess. Each time they moved forward again, she readily did. And so that’s how, inch by inch, Gemma confidently entered her first water jump.
Once they got to the middle we let her stand and look around, sniff the water, and take a drink. Then Hillary walked her out, turned around, and made a few passes straight through each direction. Each time Gemma just waltzed right in like it was no biggie, and after a few times seemed more interested in going over and investigating the banks. I really thought it might take a good 10-15 minutes for her to get comfortable going in, but nope. It took maybe two minutes total. This is why I really strongly believe that if we approach things the right way with her and give her the time she needs to understand and build her confidence, she will end up being a pretty bold horse. It’s all in the “how” with her.
Once that was done, Henry and Hillary did some of the regular downbanks, and then finished with the banks into water, topping it off with the biggest one and hanging a right to canter out over a rolltop. Pretty proud of this girl right here, she used to HATE any kind of drop and here she is just casually dropping off a decent-sized one – into water no less.
We called it a day with that, and loaded the kids up to head home. Once again Gemma traveled great. Having an older “been there done that” pro like Henry to show her the way is definitely a really nice bonus, too.
So that’s a second really positive outing in the books for Gemma! And her first water complex no less. She’s basically an event horse now right?