I wanted to do something with her in the last bit of daylight I had left, so I put her cavesson on and we went into the arena to do some ground work and light lunging.
I focused on getting crisp halts from a walk first. And if they were not crisp we did some crisp backing up. Watching the flies bother her reminded me that if she can feel a fly then she can feel my light hand pressure on the cavesson. When she wasn’t being responsive to a light pressure then I used a tap of the whip on her chest. Soon she was giving me very responsive halts from a walk to a light pressure (and not my body language) on the cavesson. And when she gave a prompt halt from a clear, light signal I gave her a soft verbal ‘good, Lena’, a touch on the forehand and a rest.
Lena is fairly sensitive and in the wrong program I could see her being a bit dangerous due to over reacting. I experienced it over her trailer loading issue when I first got her (she was very panicked when it came to the trailer and hurt herself a few times and behaved in a way that could injury a person) as well as her reaction to pull back and panic when being tied. All you have to do is ‘grrrrrr’ at her she she gets wide-eyed.
Just as she is prone to overreact to discipline actions, or overly strong requests to do something, she also does not like overly animated praise. A loud voice, strong patting or even vigorous stroking sort of spazzes her out. For her praise seems to be well received in the form of rest, a firm placement of your hand on her neck or forehead (no scratching or vigorous rubbing, please) and a quiet verbal reward.
So that is what we did tonight (since we haven’t been doing much at all for the past 2 months). About 20 minutes of in-hand type work and a little big of lunging in the walk and trot over ground poles. But the focus was just on the volume of pressure to get that walk – halt transition from a light pressure on the cavesson and an acknowledgement (that she appreciates) for her correct response.
She did a few great halts that were square. 🙂