DAY 20: I am now using a dressage saddle on Dashing and man does he look HANDSOME! I just got back from a chilly and snow-white trip in NYC and was relishing the Florida sunshine. So, I took Dashing to warm up on the ground in a paddock off of the indoor arena.
It is my goal to continually put dashing in new environment to build his confidence. As a Right Brain Introvert Dashing is not innately confident. Therefor, exposing him to new places where I continually prove my leadership will help him develop into a brave and trusting horse.
I started off by walking around and playing the “touch it” game. There was some some hay that was left on the ground, so I allowed him to touch the hay and munch for awhile. This gradual introduction allowed him to become relaxed enough for us to play. We worked on the “sideways game” along the fence and then “maintain gait” at the canter on the 22′ rope. Remember, speed can cause Dashing to become emotional. So, this is something we have been working over the past two weeks. He did make a couple mistakes, first by breaking gait, then by cross firing when I corrected him for not maintaining the gait. On our third try he was able to maintain the canter, remain in balance, relaxed, and on the correct lead for three laps each directions.
Once he processed this breakthrough I mounted him and we went into the indoor arena. My main focus was to re-visit our Follow The Rail pattern and our transitions. Then, I wanted to revisit something we started in the round-pen last week. Leg yields! Dashing was great and I really feel like we reached a new level of understanding! He is becoming much softer to the halter both in turning and backing. Also, he stayed calm as we did our baby leg yield into the rail and did not become claustrophobic. I was so proud of him! We ended with some trot following the rail on a long rein and he was very stretchy and blew out several times.
DAY 21: Today I did something bold and did zero warm-up on the ground with Dashing before getting on. My hope was to have it be an easy day of review. I suppose we had a bit of a warm-up as I upped the anti with the mounting block. He lines himself up for me to mount pretty well. However, I want him to bring his hip just a smidgen closer, and really put effort into helping me get on. Instead of being a direct line thinker and just smacking his hip closer I thought about the pieces that would be needed for him to understand this request. First we reinforced the driving game on the HQ from the ground with my riding crop. Introducing the new tool on the ground first helped him connect the dots to when I am hovering over him from the mounting block tapping him on hip. This did take some time as asking him to step into me and the mounting block is naturally claustrophobic for him.
Once he got it and I was in the saddle we stood there for awhile as he processed. Once in the arena we revisited Follow The Rail at the walk, then trot. Throughout this I continued to refine our ability to transition both up and down. His tendency to brace on the halter continues to be less and less. Because he can be apprehensive about going forward I realized that he has suckered me into micromanaging him a bit. As we do our “follow the rail” at the walk I feel that he wants to die and I keep encouraging him to go with a cluck or a squeeze instead of allowing him to break and then offering him the correction. Today, that was my focus. Of course he totally got it after 2-3 corrections and the quality of the walk improved so much! I swear he must have been over-tracking by a foot. This boy has some gaits in there! I then carried the same expectation to the trot and he blew out several times and began to stretch!
DAY 22: Was a review of the canter on-line, mounting at the block and our freestyle patterns under saddle in the arena. After that I Introduced the cloverleaf pattern at the walk each direction.
DAY 23: 100% Review
DAY 24: I started off on the 45’ line and really allowed him to take as much or as little of the line as he pleased. I have to remember that less is more with Dashing, and consistency is the KEY. With that in mind, I sent him out onto the circle at the trot for a few strides then brought him back, waited for the lick and chew. Sent him for a ¼ lap at the trot then brought him back, waited for the lick and chew, sent him for a ½ lap, waited for the lick and chew. Sent him for a whole lap and by this time he was blowing out and lowering his head on the circle. Then, I did the same thing with the canter which can cause him to become impulsive!
When I went to mount, Dashing really understood how to bring his hip to me today! Once I was on I warmed up with some “follow the rail” and found ways to catch a line of the cloverleaf pattern and stop in the center of the cones. Last time I rode him I did not feel like he had locked onto where the sweet spot was. I want to get this on his mind, especially before we pick up the trot. Another note I took from our last ride was his lack of understanding of my leg asking his HQ to move. So, we touched on this as well. I took the opportunity to be very slow with my phases and allow him to make the choice to respond instead of react.
Once we picked up the trot he began to blow out immediately and was more connected to the pattern. This is day 3! His halts where dead on in the center and I really felt like he connected to the sweet spot. There was one time that he blew past the center but instead of pulling on his face I just backed him up the 10 or so feet until we were in the center of the cones.