Pittsboro, NC

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.