It's 1:45 am after already blogging over on The Perfect Horse and I am exhausted so just a quick dish on today's occurrences.
Worked the Big Orange Man on the ground first with our 7 games (mostly flawless), figure-8 at the trot on the 22' (excellent), and weave at the walk (fab). His circling game was a little rough - he was a bit reactive at times, but overall it was still excellent and very successful. I also did a little liberty work with Sonny, taking what I had learnt from Jonathan the other day at the Mane Event. He mentioned during his clinic at the Mane Event that he wouldn't get into the saddle of a young horse before doing some liberty work to attain a connection. I thought what he said made a lot of sense with everything else he had to say and demonstrated that day, so I threw in a little liberty work of my own with the horses today. Until I pick up a portable roundpen though I have the entire arena to work with, which makes things a tad more difficult. It also means that I ask less of the horse than I would in the roundpen. I discovered today that all three of the horses I worked with today had much more drive today than draw, meaning they had no problem running away from me when I first set them loose at liberty (haha). See already what liberty can teach us and the areas it can help us in? It wasn't very long at all though before Sonny was trailing me about, which was great (not all that advanced, but helpful and a great feeling nonetheless).
Afterwards I threw my english saddle up onto Sonny and we did some basic work (rope hackamore) - small circles on the rail, back-up, figure-8, cloverleaf (working on leg aids, which his is definitely lacking in), walk/trot transitions, bending. Sonny has a tough time bending to his left (though it does not seem to be a chiropractic issue), so we worked a lot on that side until he was softer and suppler. Overall he did excellent - he was focused, attentive, and very willing.
Figure-8 around the barrels developing some bend.
Finishing up with some liberty work
My favourite lad was up next. We too started off with his 7 games (beautiful, including a good 4-5 barrel jumps in either direction - including gorgeous jump frame and scope - with very very little direction on my part!) as well as the figure-8 at the trot on the 22' and the weave (finished in either direction at the trot, though I had him on the 12' going down - twice!! - on his right side) - he did amazing, especially for having been a bit reactive and unconnected with me at the very beginning of our session. His liberty demonstrated a lot of drive too but he was soon following me about and seemed very comfortable at my side. At the end of our session he sought me out and followed me everywhere as I cleaned up the arena, stored equipment, and gathered up tack.
Our under-saddle session was GREAT!!! We worked along the rail to warm up (english saddle, cradle bit), worked on direct and indirect rein, figure-8, rail circles, transitions, etc. He was a little hyped up but was overall still very good. Next we set up a 20m circle with cones and worked on our trot in it - combined with all I had picked up at the Mette Rosencrantz dressage clinic at the Mane Event, we rocked that arena! We of course still have a ton of work to do, but for our first official dressage session, we kicked some serious hindquarter. He was very responsive to my legs, was very bent around the circle, and developing roundness. His trot was very reactive and fast at first and although our pace was not even throughout, we had some long periods of strong trot during which he was thoroughly calm and relaxed. I was extremely impressed with how well our half-halts really set him back nicely. As our session progressed he sped up a bit and lost some consistency in frame but I think primarily it was that he was starting to become tired. Next we tackled some canter on a 40m circle (approx). This was only say our second time actually schooling in the canter successfully. Our partnership has changed much since then though and he himself has developed further into a more balanced (emotionally) horse. Today's canter was wonderful - the 4om circle was easily maintained on a balanced canter in a round frame a good 75 percent or so of the time - fantastic for our second successful canter of the year! He was calm and the good majority of his canter was calm and relaxed (definitely slowed). Like I said, still a ton of work to do together but we are on to an exciting start!! Finally, after cooling out (he never even broke a sweat throughout, lol) and untacking, I had the brilliant idea of riding Link at liberty. I wasn't sure how much I could trust him, but he proved himself a trustworthy partner to me 10 times over today! He was very responsive during a walk/trot cloverleaf pattern, which included a spectator and also the door opening and closing abruptly (no flinch even). At the end he just felt like he wanted to run, so I let him out, nervous of what he would do though. I have to admit I was a little terrified at first, but he took care of me and acted in complete partnership!! He had his fun around that arena but his actions were controlled and relaxed - and in partnership!!! It was a great feeling to be that in sync with Link.
We started off with 5 of our 7 games, which she performed decently (her circling game was the only game that was a little rough, going clockwise). I felt she was pretty reactive towards me though (it seems man-made fear, not the type of fear you get through not handling a horse...) and untrusting, so I set her loose for some liberty work. That horse wanted nothing to do with me, or people, despite all the trust I had already tried to earn with her during our previous sessions. I ran her for a good hour - I'd try and try to have her come up to me, but she wasn't having any of it. Gradually though there was some improvement and we finished with her walking up to me of her own volition. She did not seem 100 percent confident with me at that point, but it was a start for sure. I groomed her up and then sat on the ground awhile, just spending some undemanding time in an attempt to create 'draw' with her. It seemed to work somewhat - when I got up later to clean the arena she led much better than she ever had on previous occasions. Usually she pulls back and resists, but this time she left a lot of slack in the rope to follow me closely without my so much as tightening that rope once. If I can earn a high level of trust with this mare, I've got it made, we won't have any further major and hindering issues together - this is the only stronghold I have to break through with her, though it might be a particularly difficult one. So hopefully we can continue to do it! That was all the work we did today - roughly 2 hours' worth!! We both worked hard, hopefully it pays off in tomorrow's session.