Today we started with Callas in the round pen and Shad on the high line. He was still agitated but a little steadier and not calling so much. By the time we finished with Callas, he had gotten to where he could stop his feet completely and just hang out a little, so that was pretty cool.
In general, I find Callas to be a much easier horse for me to work with in the round pen than Shadow. She started off pretty energized though – trotting off as soon as I asked her to start working. I offered her a draw to get her to come back down, but I still needed to move in front of her to get the down transition at first. Kathleen talked about deciding how many steps was she
allowed to take before I upped the ante. "The standard" was something we talked about a lot over the course of the week. What was my standard here? – I said I wanted her to transition right away and Kathleen asked "is that realistic?" Umm, no – at least not right yet, so I decided that she could have three steps after I asked and then I would ask her down by moving in front of her. After a couple of times, "moving in front of her" was just raising a hand and shortly after that, she was transitioning down off of the draw that we had worked with on Shad the day before. Interestingly enough, by the end of the week, "right away" was happening pretty consistently.
Actually drawing Shad had remained very difficult for me – it was pretty slow and there was still a lot of push, so we had finished the day before when he had offered a soft try with his shoulders and waited for direction. With Callas, the draw was much easier. I had taught her to come in a little hard on the draw, so we smoothed that out a little by working the draw ever so slowly.
Instead of a big step back and away, Kathleen had me take steady, slow lateral steps towards her tail. This made a huge difference and Callas got really sweet in the draw.
The other thing that she was doing was kind of hopping into the up transitions. They were just a little tense. I thought about being a little softer with a little less push up and we worked back and forth on those for a bit until they smoothed out as well. Callas was beginning to really stretch out and drop her head at both the trot and the canter and was in a really relaxed frame of mind.
After we wrapped up in the round pen, I decided that I would go ahead and get on and ride her around the ring a little while Hilary worked in the RP. She remained totally chilled out while I led her to the rig and was okay with me tossing my English saddle up, but when I went to bridle her, she got a little tense. I remember thinking that "maybe this is something we can work on tomorrow". I went ahead and got on and she was really really tense and looky-loo. I trail-rode her all over the place last summer and we had done some ring work, but I have been afraid to canter her. She has an athletic and extravagant buck that this old dame does not want to experience! So in the ring on Wednesday, I really felt that tight back. I rode her just a little, getting to a little better spot before I stepped off. As I was untacking, Kathleen drifted up and asked "how did that feel?" My thought was "totally sucky", but I said "Kind of tense" and told Kathleen about how she started winding up as soon as I put the bridle on. We agreed to work on that the next day.
Rode Shad in the afternoon. The ride started out pretty similar to the first day. A big hard walk and a fair amount of push into the bridle. I was able to catch it more quickly and get a deep enough bend to get his mind back, so he settled much more quickly. (Just writing about this, I realized that I changed my standard – how many steps of hard walk would I allow? – and got quite a bit more consistent with him) He was able to stop and stand more calmly and for longer periods of time. I didn't trot him the first day because he was so wound up. I am not worried about him doing anything stupid, because he "behaves" even when he's worried, but I didn't think it would help his mind at all. Today, I thought he was in a much better frame of mind, so went off and did some trot work. He took a couple of funny steps behind and we agreed to have the chiropractor look at him the next day. He has been doing it at home intermittently as well, and my regular vet couldn't find anything, so definitely worth a try.
As we were working on "whoa and stand still", Kathleen asked me if I ever just let him stand on a loose rein. "Hunh? He's not a loose rein?" I didn't even realize that I was holding him in place, so I dropped my reins and he left. I turned him until he stopped again and let go of the reins. Moved off. Hmmmm – had I built a big old push into my horse at the halt or what? After a couple more times, he stood quietly on a loose rein while we talked.
Frankly, the real work in the ring was on my timing and feel and my ability to help Shad get more steady without holding him up. I suspect (ha!) that part of the reason Shad has such a big push in the RP is the amount of push I have built into him under saddle. The nice thing is that they (and we) can learn new ways of doing things!