Lamarck is doing really well! Like the others, I can see him maturing and becoming more and more confident as a learner each and every session. He is much less reactive and feels like he is settling into my leadership and the dynamics of our relationship.
DAY 20: Lamarck has had four days off. Regardless, we went right back to it and proceeded with our grooming and saddling in the barn. It was glorious outside so we played in the sunny pasture on the 22’ line. This is not a field we have played in before. So, I began with the touch it game and allowed him to become accustomed to the new place. Once he was calm we played with our sideways game along he fence and then I used the trees to reinforce his ability to “follow a feel”. The biggest hole I feel with Lamarck is his brace in Zone 1 (hi nose/mouth) and thoughts to have opposition reflex when pressure is applied here.
Using the trees to help him change direction and follow the feel of the lead rope on the halter proved to be a great tool! This is one I will use again in the future! Once he had processed this we played with maintain gait at the walk and trot on the 22’ line.
When playing the circling game think about it having three parts
1) send (backing the horse out of your space then sending right or left)
2) allow (allowing the horse to be responsible to maintain gait and direction)
3) bring back (disengaging or drawing the horse in to signal “game over”)
Testing his ability to maintain gait and direction is testing the “allow”. Lamarck made a few mistakes which was great! That meant we had an opportunity for him to learn what not to do. In the end I was really happy with this as our first day back together.
DAY 21: I had a short window to play with Lamarck today. So, my plan was to simply revisit his ability to maintain gait and especially at the canter in the round pen. I truly feel that his inability to keep the correct lead is mental. He is not mentally committed to going forward and therefor his legs are a reflection of his scattered thoughts.
I still took him into the barn and gave him a good groom. Then, we went to the round pen and revisited our sideways game. I am starting to expect that all of them can begin to do this game off of the fence now. In the beginning the fence helps them understand that forward is not the answer, however, once that is in place we need to stay progressive!
For the circling game we started out by played with the trot and my goal was that he could maintain that gait for five laps without me making any corrections. I did have to make one correction on the first series. If/When I make a correction the count starts all over again.
When I sent him the other way I had to make zero corrections! I brought him in for a soak and then envisioned how great the canter was going to be. For this, I only wanted 1 ½ – 2 laps.
Once we both had our game face on I sent him strong, using my double cluck and lots of intention from my insides. Once he was off on the correct lead (which he got right away) I went to neutral. He was ON IT. I could tell that his canter was being held together with both a mental and physical commitment. Once we hit the 2 lap marker I bent down with my “good boy” cue to bring him in. He was licking and licking and licking. I gave him a cookie and a chance to process before sending him the other way.
Ace in the hole again! Not only did he pick up the correct lead and maintain it, but he was more balanced today because he assumed responsibility for his body and maintaining that speed for however long I needed him.
All in all this session was only 15 minutes or so, but the quality was through the roof! We took the last bit of time to graze outside the round pen. It is really important to develop the understanding for the horse you are their partner and provider. That is why I try to always incorporate undemanding time where I am simply providing something desirable for the horse. i.e. Grazing, scratches…
DAY 22: Today we warmed up on 45’ line in the arena and played with the canter again. He switched leads behind for a few strides on the open side of the circle (heading back to the barn) but then corrected himself back. I was happy with this as it is a huge improvement from just last week.
He was super soft on the halter (yielding to pressure from zone 1) and did changes of direction at the walk and trot each way. He felt calm, connected and responsive so I mounted him from the block and envisioned what a great ride we were going to have.
We revisited our “follow the rail” at the walk and trot. Once he was committed to forward we checked in with his impulsion (GO=WHOA) with a “million transitions”. His tendency to brace on the halter continues to get better and better. At the end of the ride I introduced the cloverleaf pattern.
All in all I have the same feeling under saddle. Once he is more committed to forward all of his gaits will get smoother and more comfortable….
DAY 23: Today I had no real agenda for my session with Lamarck. And that my friend is where I went wrong. By the end of the session I heard Linda’s voice in my head saying
We started off with our usual grooming and tacking in the barn and then I took him into the indoor arena on the 45’ line. We did our basic yields and then I asked him to go sideways with some more snap. The first direction worked pretty well but when I sent him to the left he was lagging his HQ behind. So, I tagged what was lagging and he thought that was too much pressure, and offensive. Before I knew it he had stopped all forward motion and was backing into me kicking!
Although I was taken aback I was quick to move. First, I got him off the rail and went for the HQ until he was yielding them AWAY from me. After that was a serious back up and then more yielding of the hip. For me, this is a NEVER a acceptable response. With that said, I take ownership that “he was fine till I showed up” and therefor it is my responsibility to keep the peace.
So, after I had my initial reaction of making that decision extremely uncomfortable for him. I went back to my “isolate, separated & recombine” approach. First, I reestablished my friendly game and made sure that I hadn’t broken any trust with him.
My HQ yield was now working off of my driving pressure. So I went back to sending him onto the rail and tried again. I sent him again with a lot of energy and he reacted the same way. And I reacted the same way of making it very uncomfortable. The third time I sent him I adjusted my expectations and just wanted him to think his way through the puzzle. He tried and I released.
Between the breaks for our adrenaline to come back down, then approach and retreating the sideways game I had used up all my time with Lamarck for the day.
DAY 24: Well aren’t I lucky that 4-star senior instructor Ryan Rose came to visit today. I knew he would have some insight into my previous dilemma with Lamarck. So, I brought out the little guy and he asked me to do what I often ask my students to do.
“just pretend like I’m not here and do your normal warm up”
So, I proceeded with sending him into the arena, playing my friendly game, then revisiting my yields, some stick to me along the rail, the falling leaf pattern. After this Ryan asked us to show him our sideways game. From the right side things went pretty well, but Lamarck was obviously tense. When I sent him to the right he hit the wall and immediately became defensive and was thinking about turning into me again. I handled it and waited to release till he took a step in the right direction.
I stopped and got to hear Ryan’s suggestions… First off he acknowledge that my warm up is pretty “hard” and that I should think about each session like a sandwich:)
In order to get him mentally connected start off with soft and “easy” tasks (Bread) then, smoosh the harder things in the middle (meat and cheese) and more easy things to decompress at end on (Bread).
I have heard and practiced this before but of course we all need reminders when we are training by ourselves. So, we reset the session and I began a more “zero brace” type of warm up with the “touch it” game and just simply mirrored wherever he wanted to go. Then, I went back to my patterns and eventually the sideways game with a very long phase one. There was already a difference in him this time just from the way I approached it. So, we stopped and Ryan had another gem for me. He pointed out that when I bring up my energy it is too much. I get bigger in my intention, start walking at him faster and bring in my stick all at once! So, he had me piaffe on the spot to bring my energy up without bringing it AT him. I TOTALLY felt Lamarck come into harmony with my energy and he put in a lot more effort.
This was such a good reminder for me of being SO committed to creating something and not MAKING it happen just because I have the skills to. With all the horses, getting their mental connection is really important to me and this was a good realignment for my thought pattern with the babies.