I've been so busy finishing off my EMT program that I've had very little time to spend with the horses, unfortunately. Another week though and I should be able to get them all on a regular and consistent schedule. I hope!
Just a quick note in regards to Link's and my playdate last night (quick because I hear the dog moaning and groaning for me to turn off the light...haha).
I sent Link through the arena door before me, following through after him to find a boarder ponying a foal off her chestnut mare. Aly (my pup) lurked around, wagging her tail enthusiastically at the boarder's husband (I presume he was her husband, anyways). I tied Link off, removed his blanket, and ran out to grab my things from my car. I don't know if I previously mentioned it, but I've been blanketing Link, though I never have blanketed any of my other horses, simply for his musculoskeletal issues. I know how my back feels in this cold when it's in bad shape, so I am trying to keep his muscles warm and cozy while his back heals. In addition, I wanted to keep him warmer to allow him a greater weight gain, which it has tremendously! But back to the scenario. As I am laying down my things, guy comes over and asks me:
"This your barrel horse?" I look over at my 16.2hh+ Thoroughbred. I am not particularly fond of barrel racing anyways (because it is more often done 'wrong') - my Quarab, my only real western horse now, is my cow pony rather than a barrel horse.
"Uh, no, this is one of my Thoroughbreds off the track."
"Oh!" The man's eyebrows shoot up as he glances over at Link. Link, I swear, has got this thing going on. Whenever we're alone or no one cares how he does, we typically do fabulous together, though lately he has been challenging me a bit as the spring freshness sets in. However whenever someone is evaluating him, looking for that "psycho off-track TB", he tends to give it to them (in their eyes, anyways)! Lol.
Take a few weeks ago, for example. Another lady was in there with her horse, her boyfriend spectating. I think I have already mentioned this scenario in a previous post, but just as a brief reminder... She comments on how wired Link must be, being off the track, but I reply that actually, he's a fantastic horse (surprise surprise, who would have thought!!). Of course though THAT was the day his horsenality went from LBE to RBE. Constantly. Everything was out to get him. When the woman had her horse kneel and lay down, Link just couldn't believe his eyes. He stood, staring, eyes bugging out of his head, prepared to bolt away. Sure enough, as the lady's horse inadvertently tossed a clump of dirt his way, he dashed back behind me as quick as he could manage. Then, as his own tossed dirt hit the wall, he had to dart away from that too, lest the dirt monster come tearing after him. All I can do is roll my eyes. Of course Link played very nicely into this woman's pre-conceived notions about him.
So anyways. Of course, Link's eyes are bulging out of his head again as he eyes up this mare's foal (I'm not sure what it is about mini's and foals, but he loves them and always greets them as though they were his long-lost friends). Excited, he starts prancing a bit and pacing back and forth as long as his rope will allow, really not even pausing long enough for me to groom him. I sigh and toss my brushes back into their place, untying him and leading him into the arena as the other couple leaves.
Before the man leaves though, he asks me, "so how's he coming along?" He's got this doubtful expression on his face, as if he is already expecting a "oh, he's a terrible monster, this horse!" from me. Sure, Link is a challenge, but what great horse isn't??
I smile and say, "oh, he's coming along great!!"
His eyes wander back over to the pacing Link, his eyebrows raised, before walking off.
What is it with people? This is one thing that really bugs me, because these individuals are already walking up to a horse with pre-conceived notions. Then, whatever they see from that horse, they tend to throw into that "box" they've already created for said horse. The horse doesn't even get a chance!! If I had been riding Link at liberty, it still wouldn't have mattered, they would have looked for one "wrong" (wrong, in their minds) step and said "oh, well he's an off-track Thoroughbred, so what can you expect!" For goodness sake, we make horses the way they are! Yes, breeds such as (for example) Arabians and Thoroughbreds can present a challenge, but think of all the growth in your savvy they allow! Just because not everyone can work with a challenging horse does not diminish that horse, at least not in my eyes. To me, those are usually the horses that have the greatest talent yet to be tapped and they usually make for amazing partners! It's never the horse.
As for Link's and my session of play, it consisted only of groundwork as a) I did not feel it would have been wise to ask him for so much concentration under-saddle when he was having so much trouble focusing on the ground, and b) I had very little time. We played a bit of Touch-It as well as Figure-8 Level 1. We also did a bit of Level 2, keeping in mind though that we haven't completed enough of the Level 1 patterns (so it was more of a trial to see where we were). A few more times will set us up much better for Level 2. Our Level 2 Figure-8 (on the 22' line) was quite rough and so I returned to the 12' lead and did the patterns. By the end, Link flew through his 7 games quite well (for the most part) as well as the Figure-8, Weave, and transitions (w/t) on the 12'. He did have quite the tendency to revert to RBE but I think that a consistent schedule will really help me cement a more solid partnership with him, which will eventually eliminate that RBE-ness that keeps popping up! He still tends to run through my requests sometimes, at times running right through my carrot stick. Just keeping it in mind though and we'll keep slaving away - gradually it will come together with a lot of patience. I really have to remember with him to stay extremely quiet in my body language!! He reads my slightest movement and there are always a couple of instances where he misunderstands me because I was trying to pre-empt him and set him up for success lol (such as in the Figure-8 pattern). Usually we start off each session with a quick review of the 7 games but I have decided to back off of the games even moreso and concentrated more on the patterns. I feel that I focus too much on his hindquarters (because that is an area where he tends to challenge me at) say for example in the Porcupine Game. He knows it well and what I think is happening is that I am confronting him and so he is challenging me back and therefore I am getting the reactions that I am. A Q&A in the latest Parelli email newsletter cued me in to this possibility and it just sort of clicked into place and made sense with his reactions. So instead I will accept a little less in some areas (such as perhaps only asking once at the Porcupine at his HQ so that I get my Phase 1 - it is usually only by the second "ask" where he starts to challenge me and so I continue, and he escalates, and so on) while working harder in other areas. We'll see how this goes!! A couple of times I think I inadvertently confronted him (in lieu of earning his respect) and so he reacted adversely...a little driving game backwards at those moments really made a difference. I think the key will really be these patterns, as they really really do keep him interested and start him thinking. Once he gets into the patterns he really just relaxes! He is such a challenging horse though, as he is forcing me to be extremely fair and to really earn his respect (rather than demand it). I am learning more and more that this horse is not a horse that likes to be told what to do! Do so and he responds with kicks and/or striking forelegs (and I am sure much worse if you were to really challenge him). So he is really really forcing me to earn that partnership rather than demand it. It's great, but definitely a huge learning curve for me!
I was a bit disappointed that Link wasn't working with me as a partner as he has in previous sessions (rather than follow me around afterwards, he vigorously paced the fenceline), but I still feel we made quite a bit of progress within the session and hope to make more over time! I have ridden him at liberty a couple of times now, so I'd like to get him back up to that level of partnership. I think even more of a foundation is needed though at the moment. Any time we have done liberty it has been at times when he was so focused on me and very cued in to our partnership...but a more solid foundation will increase the frequency of those instances and also create them easier. So we'll keep it up, hopefully on a more consistent basis soon!!