Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lessons of the human variety

March 25

Well today was supposed to be lesson day but student numero uno (a family member) backed out so it was just a friend and I, the friend with Link and me working with Sonny. The quick run-down:

The dark kid went well today, he tested his limits a bit with buddy but with the one-on-one session, my friend got a pretty high level of respect from him at all his 7 games (buddy even had him squeezing over a set of barrels!!) with the 22' line. I sent the two on the patterns before we returned to the games for the circling game and it's accompanying patterns. They started with the figure-8 at the trot (flawless) before moving on to the weave at the trot. Link missed a few cones initially but buddy kept trying with him until he got the weave at the trot. He's (buddy, that is) starting to learn to read Link better now too so that he's able to stop him and have him disengage when he's starting to get right-brained. Next they tackled the circling game, during which Link only went RB once; my friend immediately disengaged him and re-tried. For the most part, Link was very left-brained - the two got in both walk and trot as well as direction changes and even some traveling circle. A very productive session that challenged both horse and human and caused both to learn and grow.

His 7 games went alright (he squeezed pretty nicely over the barrels as well after some initial hesitation) but he was much too RB during the circling game to work on anything - I could not even get him to disengage his hindquarters for me. He was in complete flight mode and as such, completely ignorant of anything I was attempting to tell him from the sidelines. His figure-8 was impossible so we did not even attempt the weave! An all-round black day for the kid, despite my repeated attempts to encourage him to relax through friendly game, rest breaks, rubs, etc. I think another day I could have done better with him too (perhaps approached it from another angle?), but I just was not into it today and so instead just turned him out again to be with his buddies. Maybe next time I'll be more into working through his challenges and hopefully next time he's not in such flight mode the entire time! Fingers crossed.

Today Chicka was pretty good to catch! She trotted up in my direction, stopped, whinnied (still not sure who the whinny was aimed at, no other horses had showed up or were in that particular line of sight...), then walked off. As I approached, she walked up towards me again before stopping, walking a few steps off, then stopping again and allowing me to approach. I rubbed her a moment and set about untangling the halter in front of her before even attempting to halter her without her so much as flicking an ear away or shifting her weight. She seemed content to be with me and even a little happy maybe...which is great!!! Our sessions are continuing to pay off :)

Started off the little Dee with the patterns, actually, the figure-8 being the first. She performed it flawlessly and completely LB and so we moved on to the weave...which she also did very well at. She was much more relaxed this time through and did it well at the trot. We did some transitions on the circling game (little rough but were good in the end), some changes in direction (good, though some additional sessions will help us maintain a trot throughout the direction change), some traveling circle (finally kept her down to the trot rather than cantering - she did very well in the end!) and just some general circling. She was pretty keen again to canter on the circling game and while I think it was a result of her needing to move her feet in flight pattern, she remained pretty LB for the most part, which was also a good sign. Next we tackled the rest of our 7 games, which went by pretty quickly and easily.

Saddling up Chicka I was able to do so with the 22' line lying on the ground. On previous occasions she would take a step or two while I did up the cinch, but I have been even more careful as far as taking my time doing it up and doing it up in phases (ie. do it up a little, move around a bit, do it up more) and also I have not been doing it up as tight as I usually do. This horse really has very little wither for the saddle to grip and so causes it to slide a bit if the cinch is not tight...which is fine if the horse is coming along great. If the rider's balance is good they do not usually have to worry much about the tightness of the girth (real story: I've ridden Silver, my Quarab, down a track in a full-out gallop with a very very loose, basically useless-loose, cinch - obviously not planned, but my balance was good enough to keep that saddle in place...I wouldn't recommend having a cinch as loose as I had it that day, but obviously the cinch does not have to be horse-cannot-breathe-tight). So long story short (or, made longer, in my case: make story longer than is necessary and in doing so cause people to fall asleep...check....aaand check), I was doing her cinch up a little tighter than normal because last thing I needed if she threw in a bucking spree (which does, by the way, usually indicate that I did not do my job properly and establish a strong enough foundation before getting up in that saddle, but everyone makes mistakes and sometimes horses need to be pushed a little within certain time constraints) was to have the saddle start slipping, which, especially in the beginning stages of our under-saddle work, would have only caused her to buck harder and longer. Sub-optimal for me. Suub-optimal. Anyways, since she has been going so well and as my fears of her spooking at a slipping saddle have been mostly alleviated, I've been doing the cinch up snug, getting on, then re-doing the cinch 10 or so minutes into our work - that way it's snug, but done up in even better phases, and comfortable. ANYWAYS. She was extremely quiet throughout, I never had to correct her once. We did our three-part maneuver, which is getting lighter and lighter each time. I got a couple 180 degree turns on the hind today even, on a very light rein. Leg aids are not yet her forte though so we did a bit of the cloverleaf pattern at the walk. We also did some stick-to-the-rail, figure-8 (MUCH lighter today, so amazingly light on both sides at both the walk and the trot), and weave (trot). She wanted to move off a little quick but was pretty much LB, I did not feel much RB at all and certainly no reactive-ness. We did some walk/trot/canter along the rail...she was anticipating canter a little so we ended up doing a lot of trot just to make sure she was paying attention and to try and ease her into relaxing and not trying to anticipate the canter. On the right rein (clockwise) she kept turning her nose in to the wall and I found I was trying to micro-manage her so I ended up instead bumping her nose a couple of times with my inside rein and asking for more impulsion and respect at the same time, which had her straightening out some. She tried the same at the canter, like she was going to turn in to the wall and use it as an excuse to stop, while humping her back up a bit...not sure if that was solely a respect issue or if it could also be a physical issue (ie. chiropractic or such) as well, but I'm leaning towards the former. She does not do it on the left rein and after I earned a little more respect she stopped doing it. We'll keep investigating though. On the left rein she was very fluid and relaxed, we got in two laps that were very very pleasant and on the rail the entire time. On the right rein she was a little rough yet, so we'll keep up the practise! Afterwards we had a quick cool-down and I turned her out...a great day for the little yellow horse :)

No comments: