So the monkeys ended up with 3 days off rather than the 2 originally planned, but they seemed to have retained all that info we stuffed in last week. A lot of people told me I was crazy to get the psychotic "Link the dink", never mind to want him or even just to enjoy being around him on the track! But there was something about that big horse's character and sparkle in his eye that drew me to him and I'm glad (and lucky!) I was allowed the chance to bring him home. He is definitely a winner and we're gearing up to prove everyone wrong, that he's not the tool they thought he was but rather a brilliant horse who is making an amazing partner!! This horse is allowing me to learn so much and I am already so indebted to him for his advancing my savvy. He is incredibly smart and very very sensitive to everything around him, both in the physical and in the mental sense. What an amazing horse! Not to leave Sonny out though! He's still a fabulous horse, though a bit of a toddler at this stage - lots of energy and easily distracted! He'll be a great partner one day too, so for now we're just going to keep plugging away at it slowly.
Our 7 games went fantastic today but our Figure-8 and Weave patterns, though they ended on a good note, took a little longer today to complete as he kept reverting to being right-brained. He also wasn't so keen on squeezing over the barrels I'd laid out, but he did pop over them in the end. Today he was walking through the tarp curtain pretty easily and had no problem with the smaller blue tarp being shaken and tossed all over him today, including over his head. He started for a second when I whipped the carrot stick over his head lasso-style but immediately quieted without even moving his feet. A snow patch in the arena provided quite the jump a few times, but by the end he was walking through it as if it were nothing. Also, the little work on the 22' line we did went well, with him spiraling in and out at the canter fairly well and disengaging his hindquarters much easier even than on previous occasions. Under-saddle though Sonny was quite RB on me, which manifested itself mostly in his refusing most times to bend his neck to my knee and release. Eventually he became quite soft, but never 100%. Since the barrels and cones were still set up I asked him to weave and figure-8 through them as we would on the ground, but he nearly fell on top of me a couple of times as he reactively tried to make a turn and became RB!! Instead we worked a bit on transitions and a bit on the cloverleaf pattern; both were pretty rough however I am keeping in mind that it has been a few months since we've done any under-saddle work. Sonny made sure I remembered how long it's been with a nice long rub of my right knee (rubbing it raw, thank-you!) against the arena wall - ouch! All in all he did alright today, but I had been hoping for a bit more from him - oh well!! I've decided to drop the saddle work for now and instead really advance him on the ground; I figure if he becomes quite advanced on the ground then the under-saddle work will be that much easier later! Right now I'd like to focus more on my priorities, particularly Link; Sonny can follow along at a bit of a slower pace :)
Played our 7 games and ripped through our patterns as well; he did amazingly well, so we kept the ground session short. At the Figure-8 he again required very little direction on my part - I simply pointed towards the barrel I wanted him to go around and he went around that barrel! I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I felt that he was ready to trot around those barrels and so asked anyways; he did, and fully LB the entire time!! Next we did the Weave, with me facing forwards (very little direction on my part) and both at the walk and then at the trot - again he remained entirely LB, which was a HUGE step for us! I figured it would be quite a bit longer before we could move on to trotting the patterns without him being RB, which was what made today particularly exciting when we advanced further than I thought possible yet! I was ecstatic when at one point he felt he just had to blow off some steam during our Circling game and he gave a bit of a buck before kicking out hard; after his little show of exuberance, rather than then becoming RB and tearing around the circle like his tail was on fire (as he sometimes tends to), he quietly remained LB and we continued our game!! It has taken SO incredibly long (or at least it seems long!) to get through to this horse that I will remain consistent, quiet, and patient always, that I am not going to beat him or punish him. On previous occasions, he'd do something he'd normally be punished for, then go RB because he was just waiting for me to dole out the punishment. I think too that is why he kicked me, it was a "I'm gonna get you before you get me!" reaction because he was afraid I was going to get him one of those times around those barrels. There's been quite a few times though where he has become RB on me because he was expecting some violent reaction out of me. He's finally figuring out that I am going to give him all the time he needs to think things through, that I'm not going to punish him, and that he's safe to learn with me! Moving on though, I feel he is close to being ready to do some work on the 22' lead and perhaps even today we could have, but he did so well that I just wanted to end the ground session on a good note and not push our luck - plus leaving him LB would only help us under-saddle.
I was able to simply drape the rope over my arm as I tacked him up, and he stood quietly while I mounted. Doing our three-part maneuver - bend to a stop, turn on the forehand, turn on the hindquarter, he was extremely light and was performing 180 degree turns easily and very softly. He was a little ancy to trot a few times during our cloverleaf pattern, but it was more akin to a slow jog rather than the sprint he usually would do. For the most part though he was very soft, responsive to weight shifts, pretty in tune to me, and mostly LB. At one point we were weaving through the cones and barrels and Aly (my pup) raced across the tarp in the arena, startling Link. His head came up and he sort of jumped, but rather than reverting to becoming RB, he immediately went back to being LB and we continued our pattern!! I was amazed at how well he handled the spook. We worked a lot on transitions and even did our cloverleaf at the trot (just a little bit - we did enough to get a LB-on-the-verge-of-RB pattern in either direction but left the game before he could become overly RB). Although at first (particularly if I asked for an extended trot) he tended to be a bit RB, for the most part he was very calm and LB, even giving me a very slow jog (something I have never gotten from him before). At one point he even transitioned down to a walk out of a jog of his own accord - something he never would have done at an earlier date!! He also seemed pretty responsive to my energy levels, even halting a few times when he felt me relax and stop riding in the saddle. We just worked a lot on maintaining that LB-ness and did enough to challenge him without pushing him. I was actually quite astonished with how calm and responsive he was. His back-up was great too, lacking (for the most part) in the usual braciness and resistance we usually have.
Funny story, near the end I could feel his back round up beneath me as his head went down. "Oh shit, this horse is going to blow," was my first panicked thought. This horse is no Koolaid (my WBx), who's bucks seem more akin to some complicated dressage maneuver or some carousel horse gently rocking you up then down. I've even sat some pretty mean rodeo bucks from Silver (my Quarab). But the prospect of this one horse, Link, bucking, legitimately scares me. He's got the power, and he's got the will. He doesn't want to be told what to do, and if he is unhappy about something, he is going to let you know in no uncertain terms. So meanwhile here I am panicking, but I also don't want to pull his head up just yet, because those bucks haven't let loose yet and so I'm not quite positive yet he even is going to buck...so what is this? It took me a moment or two, but I realised he was stretching out his back as he rounded it. I couldn't believe it!! Haha I can't believe I took so long to figure it out, yet I cannot really blame myself, because I never would have thought he'd be so relaxed as to stretch out and round his back like that for awhile yet! It was hilarious afterwards - after my heart slowed of course haha, as I realised his intentions hadn't been what I had thought they were at all. I just never anticipated him being so relaxed and LB under-saddle yet haha.
I was pretty damn proud of that horse today, he really did do me proud and he worked like a real solid partner!! Our under-saddle work was amazing and I feel the progress we made today is entirely attributed to the partnership we've established this past week on the ground. The little RB-ness we did encounter I know will fade as we continue our patterns both on the ground and under-saddle, just as it has been continuously doing so on the ground. Congrats Link, thanks for an amazing night!
On another note, I have a horse coming in on the 15th of February to be started, a little QH mare, so the notes as to her progress should start flowing sometime after (or perhaps including, we'll see) next Sunday!