DAY 20: Lana has had five days off…
We started back in the round pen and revisited her hindquarter and forequarter yields, as well as her ability to transition between gaits on the circling game. The past couple of rides she has shown opposition in both the halt and back up. This is completely understandable as she is an EXTROVERT and those aids can cause her to feel trapped. With this awareness I have been finding creative ways to use the squeeze game where pressure is added in front of her (zone 1).
When we translated this to riding she had a couple peel outs along the rail. If you can imagine braking a car too fast and the back end fish tails, it was kind of like that. (This is similar to what happens with Lamarck as well) When I add the brakes and she is not mentally prepared to slow down her forward motion, the energy has to pop out somewhere. This results in her butt swinging in towards to center of the round-pen.
The what teaches? The RELEASE!
So, I simply continued to walk, halt, walk halt, until she was in harmony with my energy and able to halt straight. Remember, impulsion means GO=WHOA. This is going to be a key element in developing Lana. Once we got a couple good halts I began to play with a “baby leg yield”. I have been preparing her for this on the ground by using my spur or carrot stick and placing the pressure where my leg rests on her side when I am in the saddle. I do this with her nose facing the fence to impeded forward motion and help create a clear answer for her. Move your body sideways…
Initially she became tight and wanted to back away from the wall. In the end we could walk along the rail, do 2-3 steps of leg yield, then walk on straight again. This will be revisited often. It is important to acknowledge that this caused her to loose confidence because It means I need to adjust my set up and use the friendly game (approach and retreat) by walking along, asking for a few steps then walking on again. Essentially approaching the thing that makes her feel blocked by asking for 1,2,3 steps and then getting out of there by going back to walking straight before she gets too tight.
DAY 21: My big focus today was to help Lana find a more appropriate place for her head and neck. Her conformation, along with her innate character causes her to want to keep her head a bit high. I was really particular about not “passing go” unless her head was level with her withers for saddling, bridling; mounting etc. I realize that I need to be more diligent about this throughout all my sessions!
Once under saddle we went to the indoor and worked on the same patterns as I am doing with the other babies. Maintain gait at the walk and trot following the rail. I have only ridden Lana in the indoor a handful of time. In the past the main goal was to develop her confidence in the new environment but today I was able to create a real focused session under saddle. I was really happy with her, and, man oh man is that a floating and comfortable trot!
DAY 22: Lana was very soft and responsive during our warm up in the indoor arena today. I had her on a 45’ line today with no specific tasks in mind. Just looking for her to be Calm, Connected and Responsive before I got on. She just felt GOOD today and was way more trusting in what I was asking of her.
Linda always defined a successful session as “when the horse understands the goal”. I felt like today everything clicked and Lana was feeling very successful that she knew how to find the answers.
Lana stood very well for me to mount and walked straight into the arena. We reviewed all of the previous patterns and added in a baby leg yield off of the wall. She definitely feels claustrophobic when I ask her for this and reverted back to trying to push through pressure with her head. You will remember we did this a few days ago in the round pen.
She got pretty stuck so I actually hopped off and placed my hand exactly where my leg was cuing her from the saddle and worked from the ground till she could find the open door to move through. Then, I got back on and revisited the topic. I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but it was progress for sure. We ended with some follow the rail at the trot each direction.
DAY 23: Lana was much more relaxed as I tacked her up today. Every day I have to remind her to keep her head down but that’s OK. Consistency teaches…
We started in the round pen at liberty. You may have heard that
I wanted to test this by simply walking alongside Lana and seeing if we could walk, halt and back up with me on each side. She did great on the first side, however when I went to change sides she was completely unresponsive to me asking her to move her hip. In the end she disconnected from me and left. This got me thinking back to our previous sessions and I realized that her Hindquarter yields are consistently a sticky spot and an area I obviously needed to address.
So, I decided to revisit the driving game on the HQ and up the anti on her responsiveness.
I put the lead rope back on to act as a safety net so that I did not build in a negative pattern of her leaving me. Also, remember it is important to keep the horse from “being wrong too long, otherwise he may begin to think he is right”.
I had the belly of the lead rope on the ground and asked her with my intention to yield her HQ = Nothing. Lifted my stick towards her hindquarter = she walked forwards. Swung my stick at her HQ = She trotted. Tagged her hip with my string = She cantered.
At this point I began to shortened the lead rope while simultaneously keeping my stick swinging at her HQ so that she could connect the dots. Once she yielded her HQ and gave me two eyes, I completely turned away from her and could hear her lick and chew behind me.
I repeated this on each side until I got the desired response where she yielded from my intention and I did not have to use my stick. This is clearly an area that I need to give more attention!
This reflects the same issue I am having with the leg yield while riding. It is very common for horses to misinterpret pressure from one leg to mean go forward when in fact it should mean yield away.
Once she had a good soak on this discussion I mounted her in the round pen with the intention of reviewing our Leg yields towards the wall and maintaining gait at the canter. I have cantered her before, but have been more focused on quality of the transition rather than her responsibility to keep forward.
Leg yields were SO good. I finally felt her put effort into finding the answer rather than arguing. With the canter, she would only hold the canter for 3-4 strides then break back to trot. Each time she broke I went straight through my phases of, smile, squeeze (with my lower leg) smooch (cluck), Spank (tap her shoulder with my crop Thunk Thunk style). We kept this up till she could give me a full lap each direction without needing a correction.
DAY 24: We had a fantastic ride in the indoor arena! It was a beautiful day and Lana felt awesome so we ventured through the door and rode out all around the property and ended in the outdoor arena. We followed the rail once each direction then came to the center for a soak.This is where I got off.
Thinking ahead, I am soon going to want to use the outdoor arena as a place for our sessions. By taking her into the outdoor at the end of our sessions and getting off here I am creating the outdoor arena as a sweet spot for her. This will set her up for success to want to be in this new place where we can have fun and continue to grow and learn.