We usually start off "play time" by chasing them around the arena to stretch, but then rein it in to free lunging them. I love watching how Trovao behaves. He becomes so attentive. I wonder if it has a lot to do with when I first began to train him. On the lunge line, I would give him 5 minutes to each side to buck, be silly, and gallop around, then it was business. It seemed to be a method that worked for us. Until now I've never had an arena to free lunge in, so it's been amazing to see how well he actually responds. He has his cheeky moments, but he is learning.
We do a lot of different things when we play. For example, after we have got them warmed up and paying attention, we bring out the trotting poles and have them go over them down the long wall. In the beginning, Trovao would do everything he could to avoid going over them. Christina would say "over" and over Rusty goes, but not Trovao. We would think that would just follow Rusty over, but at the last second, he would skip around them. Eventually he started to go over them. The nice thing is that they are the same poles used to set up jumps, so I think this has helped him associate them with jumps in the field. Two weeks ago, Johanna and Apollo joined us in the arena and she set up some up as an actual jump on the opposite wall. So the boys had to go over the trotting poles, then over the jump.
Other times when we have worked in the arena, we have brought out tarps and different sized balls, and barrels. Trovao doesn't like tarps, so one day we decided that it would be a good idea to play with one. We started with it on the ground. It took a bit of coaxing, but I actually got Trovao to walk on it. I was leading him of course, and treats were a definite reward. Soon, I had him walking on it beside me without me holding him. He would follow me on it. I was pretty happy about this. After accomplishing this, I decided that I would try to put the tarp on him. He wasn't overly amused about it, but he trusted me. I began by holding him and rubbing the tarp all over his body. I would toss it up and have it make noise, as that's what scare him. He didn't like it much, but again, trusted me. By the end of the exercise, I had the tarp up and over his head. While this was amazing, I'm still sure that if we come across one on the road, it will try to kill him.
Other things that I have done with Trovao involve lunging whips. In the beginning, I began with only one whip. I would do the same thing I did with the tarp and run it up and down his body, flicking it over his back. Quick movements would startle him a bit, but he accepted it. I then began to swing the whip around at his sides, and eventually helicopter around his head. The biggest challenge has been to not hold on to him while I do this. Every time we play in the arena, I make sure to work on this. Last week, when I went up to play, I tried two whips. I couldn't believe it. He stood right in front of me and let me swing both whips around his body and over his head! This amazed me because I've only done this a few times with him. My boy never ceases to amaze me.
The next thing I want to work on him with is to kick a soccer ball. He already expresses some interest in the ball. While he hasn't figured out how to play with it, he does like to go and sniff it. I have taken to kicking the ball to his front hooves and making him walk forward saying "Kick it". He has done it a couple times. Shocking enough I got the idea to kick the ball up and over the boys for fun. While Apollo wasn't impressed with my idea, Rusty and Trovao weren't bothered by it. That made me happy that it didn't spook him. I have been able to kick balls under his feet, bounce them off his back, and play catch with Christina over his back. Who knows, maybe I will be able to make a soccer star out my boy yet.
I have been lucky to get some arena time with my boy lately. While it doesn't compare to time in the saddle, it's still a great bonding experience. I definitely recommend that every horse person take some time to just play with their friends.
Well, until next time my friends. Thanks for reading.
Ashley and Trovao
Trovao decided to be a paint after a nice roll in the arena.