Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Riding the Individual Horse's Mind

Last night's ride went very well indeed and, ironically, not because it went according to plan. My plan was to work creating softness in the back up.  I got on Abby and after walking for a few minutes went to turn her around so that we had room to back up. That is when what should have been a turn on the hind quarter to the right (because I was sitting down and had picked up my rein, laying it against her neck, opening my inside leg and closing my out) was instead a small circle to right. I went to correct her and found that she really didn't want to drop back on her hock and turn unless I circled her first. I realized that over the past month I have not asked her to turn around (spin), even a half a turn without first circling around to it. Every day I have been practicing standing still and having her actively wait for my cue. This time was no different, I made sure that I was giving her a very specific cue to turn around without walking off (moving forward slightly to set up her legs so she can step around smoothly is okay but not actually moving off). In less than ten minutes I felt like I had made some headway as she was really tuned in while waiting and put a lot of energy in to her response. Most importantly I really felt her listen.

So I got on Marm and thought I would get back on to my "game plan". I sat on her for a moment and worked out in my mind what I was going to do and how when suddenly it just hit me that as much as Marm could really benefit from that kind of softening and flexion work, that is specifically the kind of "work" that makes her so frustrated. On paper it sounds like the right thing. But in reality Marm just wants a job. Any job. So I got off and went in the barn for my rope. I roped the fence post for about five minutes and felt her relax and soften when I went forward and backed up to get my rope. Event that tiny bit of purpose to my intent changed the way she felt and thought. So I took it a step further and looped my rope on to a heavy piece of firewood which I then had her drag around the arena. I think we both realized that this wasn't a real job but it still put my attention and focus off of her and gave her something to think about. And she just gobbled it up. I could feel her relax even as she became more alert. It was awesome. I am hoping to get over to the neighbors today to rope a dummy (rather than the much too high fence post).

As for the little Princess. She spent another half hour tied to the wall tacked. Once I finished with the mares I was trying to figure out what short and sweet little task I could set her too and decided that I was actually already engaged in it... because I had turned the mares loose and was in the barn stuffing a hay net to feed them all lunch and I could hear Hola getting restless. I felt reeeeeally evil putting out hay for the mares and tying a net near her (but well out of reach) while she was still tied but what is the point in practicing her tying and patience if it isn't ever challenged? She did move around and jerk on her lead a few times but within a few minutes settled back down. I went over, untied and untacked her and then turned her loose. It was another great day with the my ladies.

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