Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day Five

Day five was really fun. Things were definitely starting to come together. Callas was standing at the hitching rail like an old trail horse. Shad was pretty much snoozing on the high line.

We decided to work on getting Callas more comfortable in the round pen under tack. She was much better than yesterday, but as I moved her back and forth between trot/walk to get her a little more settled before she cantered, she was still a little tense. I kind of felt like she was "waiting for the other shoe to fall" and finally just asked her to canter even though I wasn't quite happy with how the trot transitions looked. She moved right up into the canter like butter and offered a beautiful easy relaxed canter. Hmmm. Interesting.

I asked her back down to the trot and she hollowed and tensed a little. I talked to Kathleen about it some and she suggested moving her back and forth between a biggish trot and a smaller trot vs switching gaits entirely. So we did that for a little while. The days are running together a little in my mind, so I don't remember which day we talked about it, but we had talked earlier about Shadow going to the zoned out place in the trot. Kathleen noted that wild horses do their traveling in a long trot and that place is an easy place for horses to go, so it's important to break it up and keep their attention. As I worked with Callas at the trot, I realized that I wanted to use just a hint of that zoned out feeling to help her get more comfortable at the trot. She got really good at moving up and back at the trot. We finished up by tieing a lariat on each side of the saddle so that she could feel something funny bumping her sides. She tensed up a teeny bit, but quickly relaxed again. She rocked! Great way to finish the week with Callas!

Shad felt much better after his session with the chiro. We walked and trotted and cantered and he was nice and easy going throughout. Forgot to mention on one of our earlier rides, we had talked about how he tends to travel bent right in both directions. I have already done the "stick a spur in ribs" thing and the "hold him in a shape" thing in the past and they don't help much . Kathleen had suggested that I lift the left rein to my left shoulder and hold it until I get a try at a left shape, then release, and that had worked really nicely. As we warmed up, I needed to do that less and less, which was pretty neat. Because I work alone so much of time, Shad isn't really used to working with other horses in the ring. Hilary was riding Tuesday and every time we got near them, Shad would tense up just a little in his whole body. I used the same idea to soften that brace and that also went away really quickly. We never did get to jumping, which was one of the things that I wanted to do, but between his separation anxiety and the body work that needed to get done, I am still very content with what we accomplished. We did trot over ground poles a bunch and he was totally cool with that and I have some ideas about how I want to try to get the jumping working. Have to wait for the ground to thaw up here anyhow. I was fussing about how cold it was in SC, but it is WAY colder here!

There were a couple of little epiphanies that were pretty cool.

Standards & Leading. Both of my horses had gotten to have quite a push when leading. At home, it hadn't been a huge issue because there wasn't that escalation with a strange place and wanting to get back to the buddies, but it was there. I realized as the week went on that I have been nagging at them, instead of being crystal clear about how I want them to lead. I found out that when they were troubled, it was taking a full minute or more to get their attention back to me for more than a passing glance. I raised my standard – if they got distracted and started coming over top of me, I sent them back with the rope and then asked them to look at me by popping their attention off what ever it was they were looking at. It was amazing how hard it was for either of them to just focus on me instead of everything else. But both of them were very similar about this - when they did LOOK at me, their eye softened, and they dropped their heads and waited for me. By Friday, they were both pretty solid and it only took a moment to get them back if I lost them. Lesson was not to let the little distractions grow into a big brace.

On Friday, as I was shifting Callas between a big trot and a smaller trot, she
broke back to the walk. Almost without thinking, I pushed her back up to the
trot. For the first time, instead of thinking "oops, I made a mistake", I
thought "that was a little too much draw". It's maybe a small distinction, but
for me, it was a big shift in perspective. Kathleen talks a lot about
"information gathering" which IMO is a really good way to approach working with
horses. For me, being able to say "that didn't work quite like I expected" is
going to be a much more beneficial approach to riding and training than "oops, I
made a mistake"

All in all, it was a really wonderful week. Kathleen was so great to work with
and Hilary, my co-student, was a peach. Although I didn't write about her
sessions, it was so beneficial to watch her work and to watch her feel and
timing (which were already pretty nice) get even more precise as the week went
on. Highly recommend a week with Kathleen if you can manage it!

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