Sunday March 1
Quick session with the little Chickadee girl today while someone else worked with Link in the arena. Initially too another rider was also in the arena (our friend the big blue roan draft mare), though they left shortly after our 7 Games. Our Friendly was great until I tried to "wrap" her in rope: it's one of my exercises where I'll walk around to the opposite side of a horse, walking around past her hind end to the other side, thus "wrapping" the horse. I'll apply pressure and ask the horse to "follow the feel" of the rope, to follow the pressure and release - as they follow the feel the horse turns a circle away from me to end up facing me once more. My more advanced horses, I can safely wrap up in a few loops and they'll turn a few circles as they follow the feel. The less experienced horses though I only wrap once (and not fully even), that way if they spook they're free easily and without any safety hazards. I use it because I find it's another tool that teaches my horses to think for themselves, to think through things and solve puzzles. I really notice a difference, for example: when they learn to think things through and say step on a leadrope - rather than exploding, they think through the situation and solve the puzzle. This follows later then into situations such as being caught in the fence.
Anyways, back to the story (lol). Well as I walked around Chickadee with the rope and she felt that rope brush her hind, BOOM she exploded! SO, we've got something to work on next session! She was pretty leery about my foot brushing her bum when I hopped up into the saddle the one time too, so playing some Friendly game with her hind will definitely help in all those areas. Normally though she's been pretty good about some things around her hind, but I think fully desensitizing her in that area - with ropes - will make a huge difference to her trust in my leadership and such. We did a bit this session, but I feel there's a lot more to do in that area. So the plan is to use my 45' rope to play with her...I think if she becomes comfortable with the ropes (she is already with the tarps on her hind, for the most part), that it will be a huge step for us. Porcupine was good, as was her Circling game (did some extensions, change in direction and spiralling), Driving game, Yo-Yo, and Sideways. We did a couple of minutes of Figure-8 (which she did well) but it was about this time that the other rider and horse (and their respective spectators) left, so little ms. sunshine started calling out to her buddies. For the life of me I just couldn't keep her attention on me! Half the time, though she was doing everything correctly for the most part, she'd be looking away and be calling out - aaah frustrating! I wasn't sure how she'd do but I decided to play the Squeeze game with her over some barrels (ie. have her jump the barrels). At first it actually turned into a game of Touch It, because she wasn't having any part of those barrels in a new position (ie. lying down)!! Haha. After a few moments though she got braver and started putting her nose on them. However this was when her herdboundness really started to kick in and she started ignoring me to call out to her buddies outside the arena. I couldn't seem to catch her attention enough to send her over the barrels so we started playing some improvised Circling game - rather than allowing her to circle around behind me, I had her change direction from left to right so that she remained in front of me. The constant changes in direction (and me really upping the assertiveness so as to get that snappy change in direction) forced her to really focus on me rather than things "outside" our little circle. Within a few minutes she was huffing and puffing and really zoned in - all ears on me lol. She tested me a few times doing the Squeeze game to the right (clockwise), trying to run me over to avoid going over the barrels, but she did pretty well, advancing her Touch It to the point where she hopped over the barrels (from a standstill) in either direction. Once we'd finished she was a very calm and focused partner, which was fabulous! She even stood quietly while I worked with Link for a couple of minutes ;)
SO what I learned today (haha always something new every session with my horses!):
Our first number of sessions I was very quiet with Chickadee so as to earn her trust, especially considering her horsenality as a RBI...RB's you really have to focus on earning their trust in your leadership, whereas LB's you really have to focus on earning their respect. BUT. You also have to balance both trust and respect in a healthy partnership. This includes balancing trust and respect in say a LB with RB tendencies, where at times you're really working on earning the trust and at other times you're really focusing on earning the respect, so as to balance each out. So while I was still earning Chickadee's respect with the 7 games in previous sessions, I didn't quite have it 100 percent, which was why she at times walks through my Porcupine game - lack of respect. Also, I find I have to be quite assertive at times even with the Driving game - at times she'll try to ignore my asking her to move around, just a very small "rebelliousness", but a bit of a manifestation of her lack of respect nonetheless. It's also why I was getting attitude on my Circling game with her at times... So back to the point. While still continuing to earn her trust (via Friendly game and various obstacles and such), I feel I really can, and need to be, more assertive with her in future sessions so as to ensure we balance out the respect with the trust. Not that we do not still need to work on her trust in my leadership, but (to an extent), I've got her trust and now need to earn a higher level of respect. You know what, she might be an LBI as I had originally thought, just with right-brain tendencies...we'll see! There are other signs of LB-ness too, come to think of it. Anyways, just thought it was interesting and I am enjoying learning all these new things!! On another note, working on expanding Chickadee's curiosity in things (using Touch It and such) is really paying off, for example: after all our games I took her around the far end of the arena. We have rarely worked on that end and so I wanted to play a little Touch It and Friendly game with her - rather than running around skittishly and refusing to explore things, she actually went up to things on her own! She watched me and took her cues from my body language (one ear on me at all times) while checking everything out. She was ready to spring off, but she didn't and instead was exploratory. A great session and actually a lot of progress!!
The little yellow girl gets about a week off before I return Sunday night. Our next session will be Monday - we'll get in a session each day of the 6 days I have off. I think the key for me to remember will be to be assertive with her and to really gain her focus before getting on her back - if she's unfocused, to get off and get that focus back.