"Post from the Past"
February 26th 2008
I worked with Catlow and Chico in the round pen this evening. I think I ended up working Catlow for 1.5 hours, and Chico for half an hour.
I worked with Catlow first. I caught her, took her blanket off and put the circingle on her. She wasn’t concerned at all about me putting it on her. I led her to the round pen and then unclipped her lead. Then I got the plastic bag and proceeded to walk around ignoring her and shaking it. She stood by the gate watching me, but didn’t run until I got close to her, then she did run around the round pen, so I nonchalantly cut her off whenever she tried to go past me. Eventually, she stopped and faced me, then I was able to walk right up to her and scratch her with the bag. She seemed to want to keep me on her left side, so I had to make an effort to work both sides and get her to face up to me straight. She did so well…when I clucked at her hiny, she calmly swung it out and faced me, from both directions she would do that. She wasn’t leary about me touching her with the bag at all. She did get nervous if I shook it, then quickly went to lay it on her withers, but she didn’t run away, she’d just turn away a few steps to be ready to run away if she had to. And a couple of times, as soon as I touched her with the bag, she uttered a huge sigh, indicating that she was uptight, but not shutting down…she was actually relaxing with this whole process. She never actually yawned at all today, so I think that she managed to keep breathing through most of the exercises.
Then I practiced free-lunging her, then asking her to stop and turn in. Then I’d walk up to her with the bag, and lay it on her shoulder or shake it and lay it on her shoulder and rub her face with my hand. She was keeping her head really low when I rubbed her showing me that she was relaxed in my presence. She is actually finally getting over the throwing her head up every time I move. She did still raise her head when I shook the bag, but she is doing awesome for as fearful as she was. I really am getting the feeling that she isn’t as stressed about working with me anymore. She’s starting to understand what I expect and it is getting easier to listen to me. Things have gone slowly with her, but she really is improving! I worked a lot in this session on getting her to read me better…understanding when to go (when I point and cluck, then shake the bag when she doesn’t listen), and when I don’t want her to go (when I don’t point, but approach her, even if the bag is jiggling a bit). She was really understanding not to leave, but a little less certain about me actually asking her to leave. I think that shows that she is feeling comfortable enough with me, that she’s only going to leave if that’s really what I intend. We haven’t worked with this much since we started our intense lessons, so I’d expect her to not get it quite yet. Before, she didn’t want to come off the rail and be with me, so this is great. I did ask her to canter a few times, and she did, and of course, she kind of did a little cow hopping because the circingle was grabbing her belly, but it was really weak, and she quit as soon as she got accustomed to the feeling when cantering.
I finished up the session by asking her to yield the fores, hinds, and sidepass (all without a leadrope!), and then I did clip the lead rope on so that I could ask her to flex. I think that she is ready for me to ride. I need to get the saddle on her, and practice lunging, and then the bit (same session) and get her flexing really good to the bit before I climb in the saddle, but I don’t expect that to take too many sessions. I’ll probably need to get some 2 liter soda bottles and lunge her with those before the saddle, then with the saddle on. Maybe I can ride her in the round pen this weekend (maybe I should get health insurance first!). I’m really excited to get her to do all the yielding hinds, fores and sidepassing from the saddle. I hope she can make the connection, since she’s making the connection from my hand position on the ground. My favorite part about this session was the fact that she was so relaxed with me rubbing her face. Almost every time I rubbed her face, she dropped her head and got really soft eyes. The thing that I need to work on is getting her better with reading me when I ask her to leave to lunge around the round pen. Maybe it’s my body language that isn’t conveying what I want. I might need to show more intensity in my look when I ask her to leave.
Next I worked with Chico, but only briefly. The majority of the time was spent with the plastic bag. He’s much more confident than Catlow, but he is also more energetic, which translates to him liking to run around the pen, so sometimes if he’s only a little uncertain about the bag, he’ll leave anyway. I did the plastic bag work with no leadrope. He was actually great with the bag, and he’s always intensely curious (he actually walked right up to the bag to smell it first thing in the pen). But he was uncertain when I moved the bag around at ground level. There must be some instinctual fear when an object comes at them low and then gets high to touch them on the withers. He had a really hard time with that (probably also because it must be hard to see the bag when it is low and fast). He did get over it, especially when I associated it with a treat. And even more especially when I shook the bag low while offering him a treat, so he had to overcome that fear (control it) if he wanted to take that treat from me (and he did!).
I tried doing some free-lunging, but he was really full of it (over reacting when I asked him to change directions, and running straight at Sage waiting at the gate whenever he came around the circle), so I put him on the lunge line. He’s better behaved then and I keep him closer so he pays more attention to me. He trotted and cantered on command and generally was really good. Oh, and I also put the circingle on him…he really didn’t even notice it. I’d like to ride him this weekend, but I think I’d like to lunge him thoroughly first (he just has so much energy that I don’t completely trust him to listen fully to me without losing some excess energy first).
I also asked him to yield his fores and hinds. I think he needs more work on yielding his fores to the right…he tends to walk a tight circle and I really need to get him to pivot on his hinds.
I really need to get health insurance before I ride my crazy horses.