Pittsboro, NC

Lena – 05/16/2019

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. 🙂

Sooty – 05/08/2019

I didn’t have an intention to work him but he was hanging out by the riding arena fence when I finished with Lena so I thought “meh, might as well do 15 minutes of something with him”. I went to slip the cavesson on him and he was like “nah, I’m good” and walked off.

Sooty and Lena have been staying in the barn yard. I can see them from the house and at any given moment she is behind him marching him around the barn yard. So when he walked off I thought “hmmm, I wonder if I act like Lena…” and I started walking behind him. Any time he slowed down a bit I just took my dressage whip and pointed it at his rump and kept walking into his space. 😉 I couldn’t get up close enough to get on the side of him and change directions but I was wondering if I at least kept behind him that when I did decide to stop would he stop? I took a trip around the lower half of the barn yard and back up towards the barn before it worked. HAHA But when he stopped I got his head gear on and we did about 15 minutes of work in-hand and spent a few minutes on the lunge.

I did send him over a single ground pole on the lunge in the walk and trot and he really inverts his neck and tosses his head back (ewe neck) and almost ‘hops’ his front end over the pole.

I worked on asking him with the cavesson to lower the neck (poll to withers) and articulate in the poll / jaw so his forehead was closer to being vertical vs poking out. He has no clue so he will fling his head backwards or dive his head down (rooting style). I remember a George Morris video on YouTube where he was riding a very hot horse that wanted nothing to do with rein contact. George said to keep the contact light but maintain the line from the rider’s elbow through the bit no matter how high the horse put his mouth. Don’t pull down or try to manipulate just follow where ever the horse puts his head / mouth. So I wondered with Sooty tossing his head high or dodging way low if I made an effort to keep my head ‘present’ on his cavesson, not blocking or controlling but just following his move, if… well if him going above or below and getting away from my hand if that was reinforcing the wrong answer to the question he doesn’t understand.

In the Straightness Training program there is a mantra to ask lighter, release quicker, capture the right behavior with the release / reward. Which I understand. My mind keeps going back to the George Morris video. My hand is just there, and it’s ok that you have an opinion about my hand being on the cavesson. After all horse’s instinct when something touches them, like bugs, is to wave a leg or their tail around to remove the disturbance. 😉 My hand on the cavesson asking a question he doesn’t understand is bugging him (haha). I’m going to pursue the path of trying not to lose a connection with him when he draws backwards or dives forward. It’s just my hand and a pulse on the cavesson. We’ll see how it goes over the next few sessions.

We finished with walking over the raised walk cavaletti set. They were a bit wide for him, set for Lena’s stride but Star didn’t have any problems with them and she was about Sooty’s size. But Star had a swinging walk that was about as free as her round body would allow. Sooty is inverted and sort of rusty looking and not forward. He wasn’t making the stride length, and on top of being distracted about where Lena was he tripped going through a few times.

Lena – 05/08/2019

In-hand / cavesson work and lunging at walk / trot / canter and trot cavaletti. She is starting to get the ‘seeking’ posture more than a dropping and flattening of her neck with her nose poking out to the front.

I tried the haunches-in a few times and I think we were both tired and annoyed by the bugs. I was starting to have feelings of “ugh, why did I stop working with her? Why have I let 2 months go by?” and am sure she was thinking “Ugh, why can’t I just be a pasture puff?”. So I was cycling through a few minutes of in-hand work, going to the larger circle on the lunge and trotting a few minutes, coming back to in-hand work so neither of us got too frustrated. We did manage to pull off about 3 steps that looked and felt good, with her being bent to the inside, haunches off the wall making 3 tracks and I’m pretty sure I saw the outside hind leg tracking and landing about where her naval would be, with none of her other legs going side ways (toes moving forward). So YAY! That is where I ended our session.

I did ask her to canter about 3 circles each way, and she got her sticky lead to the left fine. She wasn’t rushing, falling in badly or pulling but she was struggling. I just wanted to give her a little ‘break’ from the mental ground work.